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550-year-old clue emerges that could solve the mystery of Dracula

550-year-old clue emerges that could solve the mystery of Dracula

This truly is a historical feat

A group of scientists have unearthed a 550-year-old clue that could help to solve the mystery of the man who inspired the original Dracula.

It's been just over 125 years since Bram Stoker's iconic vampire novel was first published, which went on to become the inspiration behind countless characters, books and films.

But long before this, a real-life 15th century Wallachian ruler named Vlad the Impaler terrorised the enemies of Romania.

Known for his brutality, legend has it that the warlord – who is often referred to as Vlad Dracula or Vlad III – once even created a forest of corpses impaled on stakes to shock and deter an invading army from attacking.

Vlad the Impaler had a thirst for blood.
Creative Commons

Centuries after his terrifying reign, Vlad's thirst for blood inspired Stoker's literary vampire.

To provide the world with unprecedented insight into this fascinating historical figure, two scientists named Gleb and Svetlana Zilberstein have gotten their hands on a number of his letters, including one he sent to the people of Sibiu in 1475.

Alongside professor Pier Giorgio Righetti of the Polytechnic University of Milan, the trio developed a biochemical analysis method that is capable of extracting proteins from items that were touched by people from hundreds of years ago.

In the case of Vlad's letters, the Zilbersteins have obtained genetic materials of the warlord from his sweat, saliva and fingerprints.

They can use this evidence to derive information on his physical makeup and health at the time, as well as the environmental conditions in which he lived.

Speaking to The Guardian, the 'historical chemists', as they describe themselves, revealed that they conducted the extraction in Transylvania on the 125th anniversary of Broker's Dracula.

The Zilbersteins can use the extractions to derive important information about the 15th century warlord.
Colin Waters/Alamy Stock Photo

Gleb told the outlet: "It was mystical that we were extracting Dracula’s molecules on the day that Bram Stroker’s novel was published 125 years ago. We did not specifically plan this date.

"All night, after the extraction of Dracula’s molecules, it rained, dogs howled and lightning flashed. It was really a very magical atmosphere.

"Count Dracula blessed his release from the Romanian archive."

As for the science-y bit, he explained: "Our job is to find the biochemical traces left from the time when the historical object was created or when it was used by some historical figure.

"When 'historical biomolecules' are found, we begin to analyse them. That is, to determine the molecular composition and age of historical molecules. We mainly determine proteins and metabolites.

"These molecules are more stable than DNA and provide more information about the environmental conditions, health, lifestyle, nutrition of the historical person to whom the historical molecules belonged."

The trio's method is tried and tested, having initially used it on the first manuscript of The Master and Margarita by Soviet playwright Mikhail Bulgakov.

Gleb went on to say: "We found traces of morphine and kidney pathology proteins in the pages of the manuscript, proving he wrote it while under the influence of drugs that he used to relieve acute pain in the kidneys.

The method was used to uncover information about the iconic 1984 writer George Orwell.
Creative Commons

"After Bulgakov, we took up Anton Chekhov. We analysed the shirt in which he died and his last letter.

"Chekhov suffered from tuberculosis and used various substances as painkillers, but he died of a stroke.

"After Chekhov, we began to investigate George Orwell’s letter to Moscow and found traces of tuberculosis, which he contracted in Spain."

In the case of Vlad Dracula, we'll have to wait and see what their analysis shows.

Gleb concluded: "With our analysis, we expect to receive a snapshot of a molecular portrait of Vlad Dracula when he wrote or signed these letters – that is, his health, what he ate and what the atmosphere was like around."

Featured Image Credit: ScreenProd/Photononstop/Stocktrek Images, Inc./Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: World News, Science