ARCHAEOLOGISTS wanting to unearth one of the great mysteries of the world have turned to Huddersfield for help.
Dr Stefano Vanin from Huddersfield University – a world famous expert in forensics studies – is trying to help find the remains of Mona Lisa.
She was Lisa Gherardini, the woman many believe was the sitter for Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece.
Dr Vanin is working with archaeologists at the dig in the former convent of Sant Orsola where it is thought Gherardini was buried in 1542.
Dr Vanin’s thesis is that the truth may lie in the insects found in the tombs.
He said: “The dirt that has deposited inside the skull could contain a particular insect that colonises tombs and helps indicate the age of remains.”
Known as the sarcophagus flies, the insect’s life cycle helps forensic entomologists state as precisely as possible when an individual died.
Archaeologists working at Sant Orsola have found four skeletons – and they want to see if Dr Vanin’s research can link one of them to Lisa Gherardini.
Dr Vanin, from Treviso, in northern Italy, said that when his duties at Huddersfield University as a senior lecturer in forensic biology allow, he jets back to Florence to work on the project.
“The physical part is easy to do if you have got the experience,’’ he said. “The difficult part that requires a lot of knowledge is species identification. It’s the interpretation of the material and the identification that is the key.”
As a fan of Leonardo da Vinci he was all too pleased to accept the commission when the researchers came calling.
“When they called me I was happy because it was something unique – it was a chance to apply science in an historical context,’’ he said.
“You can have two fields – the humanistic and the scientific. With this particular work I am trying to ‘hug’ the two together.”
He is hoping that by next summer he will have the answers depending on the flies he finds in the many kilos of soil collected for him by archaeologists.