The Guardian // GalaxiePresse
The Guardian // GalaxiePresse

The Time a King's Head Turned Up in Some Guy's Attic

The Guardian // GalaxiePresse
The Guardian // GalaxiePresse

If you were to inventory your attic right now, chances are you’d have the same old stuff everyone shoves up there: Christmas decorations, leftover pieces of carpet or tile, and the box of old yearbooks your mom made you take with you when you finally moved out. Then there’s retired tax collector Jacques Bellanger, who kept a mummified head in his.

The head was believed to have belonged to King Henry IV, a French royal who was assassinated in 1610. Henry’s head was still attached to his body when he was stabbed to death in 1610 … so how did he come to be separated from it? While we don't know for sure, historians believe revolutionaries removed it as a political statement when they ransacked the Basilica of Saint Denis in 1793. After that, the head was passed around to various private collectors for more than a century. The trail picks up again in 1919, when a photographer purchased it for three francs, and then again in 1953, when Jacques Bellanger added it to his collection. It was removed from Bellanger’s attic in 2008.

“We don’t have any DNA, but we can manage without it,” said a forensic medical examiner on the research team brought in to analyze the remains at the time. “We have too much proof supporting the identification, at least 30 factors, and none of it goes against the identification.” Some of that proof included skull injuries that matched injuries King Henry had, as well as a distinctive mole on one of the nostrils. Facial reconstruction also supported the theory.

However, when the DNA testing did eventually come through in 2013, results disproved the head-of-King-Henry theory: A sample taken from the remains didn’t match samples taken from three of the king's living descendants. Despite the apparent lack of royal lineage, officials planned to give the unidentified head a proper burial. That may take a while, as people are still unsure about the accuracy of the DNA tests. But if it’s not King Henry’s head, that means his skull is still out there somewhere. When was the last time you cleaned your attic?

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NASA, Getty Images
Watch Apollo 11 Launch
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
NASA, Getty Images

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, on its way to the moon. In the video below, Mark Gray shows slow-motion footage of the launch (a Saturn V rocket) and explains in glorious detail what's going on from a technical perspective—the launch is very complex, and lots of stuff has to happen just right in order to get a safe launch. The video is mesmerizing, the narration is informative. Prepare to geek out about rockets! (Did you know the hold-down arms actually catch on fire after the rocket lifts off?)

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Spacecraft Films on Vimeo.

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Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

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