Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Pisan "Cannibal" Count Ugolino Gherardesca was a historical personage best known from Dante's fictional depiction of him in Inferno. He was betrayed by his co-conspirator the Archbishop Ruggieri and imprisoned, along with his sons and grandsons.
According to Dante, the prisoners were slowly starved to death and before dying Ugolino's children begged Ugolino to eat their bodies, which he did after being driven mad with hunger. For this reason Ugolino is known as the "Cannibal" Count and is often depicted biting his own fingers ("eating of his own flesh", a reference to his horrible sin) in consternation, as in the sculpture of the Gate to Hell by Auguste Rodin, Ugolino and his Sons by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux and other artwork. Ugolino appears in the Inferno as both a damned soul and a punishing demon who gnaws vengefully at the skull of the evil Ruggieri.
In 2002, Italian archaeologist Francesco Mallegni found what he believes are the remains of Ugolino and his children. DNA analysis agrees with the remains being a father, his sons, and his grandsons. Additional comparison to DNA from modern day members of the Gherardesca family leave Mallegni about 98 percent sure that he has identified the remains correctly. Forensic analysis discredits the cannibalism story. Analysis of the rib bones of the putative Ugolino skeleton reveals traces of magnesium, but no zinc, implying he had consumed no meat in the weeks before his death; apparently the starvation part of the story is at least partly correct. Ugolino also had few remaining teeth and is believed to have been in his 70s or 80s when he was imprisoned, making it further unlikely that he could have outlived and eaten his descendants in captivity, as the cannibalism account requires.
Additionally, Mallegni notes that the putative Ugolino skull was damaged; perhaps he did not ultimately die of starvation, although malnourishment is evident. In 2003 Mallegni was to publish an Italian language book about his study of the Ugolino remains.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details