The forensic archaeologists are at it again! This time, some Spanish ones want to dig up Cervantes. Their goals are: 1) to "reconstruct the face of a man only know from a picture... painted some 20 years after his death"; and 2) figure out if he did indeed die of cirrhosis of the liver, according to historian Fernando Prado.
|Cervantes de La Mancha (credit)|
I feel like a broken record, but facial reconstruction to see the "true face" of someone who died hundreds of years ago is just absurd (q.v. Mona Lisa and Shakespeare [who, incidentally, was Cervantes' contemporary]). As far as Cervantes' love for the cerveza, alcoholism does seem to predispose people to bone degeneration, and longstanding liver disease like cirrhosis could very well have affected the quality of his bone. But osteoporosis and osteopenia are certainly not pathognomonic for cirrhosis or alcoholism and could be related to a variety of things, like vitamin D deficiency (rickets/osteomalacia). There's no way to say for sure that Cervantes died from liver disease, even if they find a perfect skeleton - and the chances of that happening (especially if he had low bone density!) are fairly low.
Well, I could keep writing about how silly it is to do forensic reconstructions of 400-year-old people, or I could jump on the "Digging Up Celebrities" bandwagon. All the cool kids are doing it, after all, and they're getting far more press than my average-Julii from Rome. Now it's just a matter of digging up all of Rome to find an emperor...
* Hat tip to @TLockyer for the link!