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Swedish king Erik IX murder mystery may be solved by DNA testing

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The coffin of Erik 9th of Sweden has been opened by researchers from Uppsala University. The fallen monarch was killed in 1160, and was designated as Erik the Saint. 

Uppsala Cathedral has held the bones since the king died over 850 years ago. A highly-decorated box held the skull and burial crown of the late Swedish leader, along with remainders of his skeleton, including the collarbone. 

Mystery surrounds the exact details of the death of Erik, including his time of death. His death is traditionally believed to date to 18 May, 1160, but some researchers believe he kidnapped, and executed a week later by his captors. His death occurred two years before the birth of Genghis Khan, who would go on to found the Mongol Empire. 

His collarbone clearly shows signs of being struck by the weapon that killed the king. Legends say the church was built around the site where he was murdered. 

Little is known about Erik the 9th, and most of the stories about the king and his reign are legends, many of which may have been crafted to propagate his image as a saint. Popular stories claim Erik was murdered as he attended mass, and that miracles took place around the land upon his death. Investigators hope DNA analysis will answer some basic questions about the king that have puzzled historians for centuries. 

Researchers will carry out X-ray studies, as well as DNA analysis, in an attempt to uncover secrets of the fallen monarch. Tests will be able to reveal if Erik suffered from any major diseases, as well as uncover his diet. 

Medical research could also benefit from examination of the ancient remains, as samples will be used to help find treatments for a disorder affecting millions of people. 

"The medical studies are part of a larger interdisciplinary research project aimed to learn more about osteoporosis (brittle bones) by examining skeletons from medieval individuals and compared to the current population," researchers wrote in a press release from the university. 

Sabine Stone, professor of Osteoarchaeology at the university, is leading research of the remains. This is not the first time the gilded box holding the remains has been opened, but this will mark the first DNA tests ever taken from the 12th Century monarch. 

The crown has been removed, and will be put on public display, making it the oldest-known royal head gear in Sweden. It is constructed from copper and decorated with semi-precious jewels. The special show displaying the artifacts is titled "Heaven is Here," and opens in June.

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