History

Artifact: Shock Me, Amadeus

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Credit: Zuma Press

Years ago, this nearly toothless skull was removed from public display after complaints that it not only screamed but also emitted music. A nice story, given that the skull is reputedly Mozart's. Now the mysteries of the skull–devoid of life since 1791 and housed in Salzburg's Mozarteum since 1901–may be nearing a solution.

Archaeologists believe they have recovered the bones of Mozart's niece from the family vault and will perform DNA tests. If the controversial skull turns out to be genuine, it may provide information about Mozart's often difficult life and perhaps even his notorious death. As viewers of the 1984 film Amadeus will recall, the composer has long been rumored to have been murdered.

Not everyone is pleased. Britain's Guardian reports that officials in Salzburg, the Austrian city that "attracts thousands of tourists every year on the strength of its Mozart connection," have complained about researchers disturbing and removing the family's remains. Salzburg may not welcome bad news about its bizarre but valuable holding.

Bones like these once constituted the most macabre of markets. The skulls of such composers as Hadyn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Liszt were all valuable collectibles at one time. None of those, however, was ever heard to scream.?