You might expect the locations where historical figures are buried to be grand. Royals like Anne Boleyn and Louis XIV seem destined for ornate coffins, and it's easy to assume great artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would be interred in fittingly beautiful surroundings. But there are a surprisingly number of stories about historical figures buried in decidedly less glamorous places. Just consider Richard III – his remains were discovered in a parking lot.
How did the bodies of these notable individuals turn up in humble locations like construction sites? Some of that has to do with the reputation of the deceased. Throughout history, souvenir-hunters have made off with relics from the famous and dead. And then there are the sometimes despised rulers – there's nothing like a good revolution to ensure corpses go missing.
From a mysterious head discovered in an attic to entrails stuffed in a barrel, there's no shortage of bodies found in weird places. And these are just the famous people. Who knows how many other corpses have been lost to antiquity?
Hatshepsut Was Buried With Her Servant
Hatshepsut was one of the most successful pharaohs to reign over ancient Egypt. She ruled over a particularly prosperous time in Egypt, from around 1479-1458 BCE. Some of the monuments she built still stand to this day.
That didn't save Hatshepsut from nearly being wiped from history by her stepson after her death. Much of what she had built was destroyed or buried. Even her tomb wasn't safe; when archeologists opened it 1902, it was empty. A nearby tomb, however, contained two female bodies. One was identified as Hatshepsut's wet nurse, and the other remained a mystery.
In 2006, scientists decided to finally determine who the mystery woman was. The key to their research lay in a molar found in a box bearing Hatshepsut's name. They matched the tooth to the unidentified body, and concluded the remains likely belonged to Hatshepsut.
Henry IV was one of France's most popular kings, despite religious conflicts between the Protestant king and the Catholic church. He reigned from 1589 to 1610 and is most famous for issuing the Edict of Nantes, a religious freedom bill. But his life came to a bitter end when he was stabbed in the back by a Catholic fanatic. Henry was buried in the Basilica of Saint Denis in Paris. However, during the French Revolution and the subsequent desecration of the royal tombs, his body was disinterred.
What happened next is a bit of a mystery. Most claim his body was lost in the new burial trenches before the mixed remains were later exhumed and reinterred in the Basilica. His head was likely stolen by looters – but it eventually seemed to turn up in the attic of a tax collector in 2010.
Following his father's death in 1483, Edward V assumed the throne of England at the age of 12. His Uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, was appointed as his regent; he quickly deposed Edward and became Richard III. After his successful coup, Richard III locked Edward and his younger brother Richard up in the Tower of London, where they vanished from history. Legends arose about what became of the two boys. Some say they escaped; others believed they were brutally murdered in the Tower.
In 1674, workers remodeling the Tower stumbled onto two wooden boxes buried under steps leading to the White Chapel. They contained the remains of two boys assumed to be the missing brothers. No other examination was done until 1933, when further study declared the skeletons to be a close match to the missing boys.
Like many of the not-so-rich Europeans of his age, composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was buried in a common grave and later was moved to make room for more bodies. During one of these moves, his skull vanished. Presumably, it became a morbid souvenir, and passed through the possession of many different Viennese citizens before landing in the hands of anatomist Joseph Hyrtl. There, it presumably stayed, although no records of the skull can be found.
In 1902, a skull was donated anonymously to the Mozarteum, with a label marking it as Mozart's placed by Hyrtl. Multiple attempts have been made to properly identify the skull as Mozart's, though the results have been inconclusive. Whoever the skull belonged to, it was removed from display because of complaints by guests stating the skull emitted eerie music.