x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Cemeteries and politics: digging up the famous

The bodies of several notable political figures and celebrities have been dug up over the years.

Salvador Allende

The remains of the Chilean socialist leader, killed during the coup that overthrew him in September 1973, were disinterred in 2011 to try to find out how he died. The results confirmed the official version. which said he shot himself as Gen Augusto Pinochet's troops attacked his presidential palace.

Simon Bolivar

In 2010 the remains of the 19th-century Latin American independence hero were removed from his tomb at the request of Hugo Chavez, the president, who wanted to ascertain whether he had been assassinated. An analysis failed to reach a conclusion.

Nicolae and Elena Ceaucescu

The bodies of the former Romanian dictator and his wife, who were executed on the fall of their regime in 1989, were disinterred in July 2010 at the request of relatives who wanted to be sure of their identity. DNA tests showed that the bodies were those of the Ceaucescus.

Juan Peron

The remains of the populist Argentine leader were exhumed in 2006 at the request of a woman who claimed to be his daughter. DNA tests showed that she was not.

Haile Selassie

The Ethiopian leader, considered a living god by many of his followers, disappeared in 1975, a year after the coup that overthrew him. His remains were later found and in November 2000, nine years after the fall of the regime that had ousted him, he was given a formal burial.

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia

In 1979, over six decades after the Tsar and most of his family had been shot by troops during the Bolshevik Revolution, most of their buried remains were found by an amateur archaeologist. In 1998 the remains were formally identified and buried in Saint Petersburg.

Ernesto "Che" Guevara

The guerrilla leader, a comrade of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, was killed by troops in the Bolivian jungle in 1967. His bones were found and identified there in 1997, and in the same year Mr Castro led a ceremony to bury them in Cuba.

Jesse James

The remains of the notorious US outlaw, who was shot dead by a rival in 1882, were disinterred in 1995 and subjected to DNA tests. The tests proved that the remains were indeed those of James, ending a long-standing rumour that the person killed had been someone else.

Lee Harvey Oswald

The body of the man who was arrested for shooting the US president John F Kennedy, and then was shot dead two days later, was dug up in 1981 to check its true identity. Dental records showed that the remains were Oswald, and not of a Soviet lookalike, as a writer had suggested.

Napoleon Bonaparte

When the French emperor died in exile on the remote Atlantic island of Saint Helena in 1821, the British authorities there had his body cremated. However his popularity back home remained such that in 1840, the French authorities negotiated the return of his ashes. They were given a state funeral and placed in a special tomb in the Invalides church in Paris.