700-Year-Old Poop Solves Dramatic 14th Century Murder Plot

An Italian nobleman and warrior, Cangrande della Scala died suddenly in 1329. The acclaimed leader was suddenly stricken with gastrointestinal distress and ultimately succumbed to a bout of diarrhea at the age of 38. At the time, his death was attributed to his stomach flu but now, thanks to some 700-year-old poop, researchers have concluded he was met a more sinister fate.

A powerful leader of his day, della Scala had recently conquered the city of Treviso—in fact this happened just a few days prior to his sudden illness, according Discovery News. Many suspected that the timing of these two events was no coincidence, and there were rumors of foul play surrounding his demise. Ultimately, the reports of his death accredited his stomach bug to “drinking from a polluted spring.”

The rumors or poisoning made a comeback in 2004, after the discovery of della Scala’s mummified body in a marble tomb in Verona, Italy. The body was reportedly found very well preserved—so well, in fact, that archeologists were able to recover fecal matter in the rectum.

Analysis of the feces confirmed that della Scala had in fact been poisoned with a deadly concoction of foxglove mixed with chamomile and black mulberry. Toxins consistent with this type of poisoning were also found in the liver. The symptoms from this type of poisoning are consistent with the gastrointestinal suffering experienced by della Scala in his last hours.

While the means of murder have been exposed, the perpetrator of this centuries-old crime remain a mystery—the truth of which we may never uncover.

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