HORIBA Scientific Aids Identification of King Henry IV’s Head
27 May 2011

Identification of skeletal remains continues to be a fascinating subject, demanding the need for latest technologies and processes from leading research labs. A recent high profile case involving the identification of the embalmed head of King Henry IV has recently been announced by HORIBA Scientific – a world leader in Raman spectroscopy.

Using the LabRAM ARAMIS Raman microscope, the identification of the black substance at the base of the royal neck as ‘Ivory Black’ (a variety of amorphous carbon) was undertaken. This charcoal, obtained by anaerobic calcinations of animal bones, is known (via sixteenth century medical journals) to have been used by the King’s surgeon to absorb decomposition fluids and putrefactive gas.

Furthermore, Micro X-Ray fluorescence analysis has particularly revealed the elemental composition of a small grey mineral substance present only on the face skin. The major elements found (silicon, aluminium, iron, titanium and potassium) constitute a typical composition for clay that confirms the realisation of a mould of the face at the end of the 18th century.

HORIBA reveal that these results in addition to those obtained by radiocarbon testing and the former embalming procedures, provide valuable evidence that the embalmed head belongs to Henry IV. The embalmed head was rediscovered in January 2010 after previously being conserved in private collections, since the profanation of the Royal graves by revolutionists in 1793.

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