This saga has been on my brain for twenty years or so, from back in the days when I was a nerd-olescent obsessed not just with archaeology and forensic anthrolopology, but Mozart as well. In recent years, however—with the exhumation of Mozart’s relatives and some DNA testing—the story’s come to a less than conclusive conclusion. Most likely, this is not the skull of Mozart, but it remains a fascinating story. From Atlas Obscura:
In 1902 the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, came into possession of what was said to be Mozart’s skull. Missing its lower jaw, this skull matched a historical record indicating that Joseph Rothmayer, a gravedigger, had taken the skull from the group grave in which Mozart was buried ten years after his death in 1791.
So it was with great excitement that in 2006, 104 years after acquiring it, the Mozarteum was planning to prove once and for all that it possessed Mozart’s skull. The plan was to test the skull’s DNA against the DNA of Mozart’s relatives, taken from his maternal grandmother and niece’s thigh bones. The results were dismaying.
Using mitochondrial DNA, the results suggested that not only was the skull unrelated to the Mozart family’s remains, but that the remains were unrelated to each other, casting doubt on the the family remains as well. Due to the confusion, the result was neither negative nor positive, but entirely inconclusive.
Perhaps the best case for the skull’s being Mozart’s is the fact that the skull shows that it took a hard hit about a year before its owner died. This would be consistent with the headaches that Mozart described in his last year of life and would provide some additional explanation of his early death. But this too is ultimately speculative, and the mystery of Mozart’s skull will, for the time being, remains unsolved.
Though still at the Mozarteum, the skull is no longer on display, as it unnerved a number of the docents. However, with an advance request, a showing of the skull may be given.