A team of paleontologists wants to dig up William Shakespeare to find out of he used marijuana.
They didn't just come up with this out of thin air; some recent evidence actually suggests that Shakespeare may have gotten high. Now Francis Thackeray, an anthropologist and director of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, has placed a formal request with the Church of England to unearth the Bard, reports David Edwards at The Raw Story.
The playwright is buried under the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, and the planned analysis is of the "nondestructive" variety, according to Thackeray, reports Alec Liu at FoxNews.com.
"We have incredible techniques," Thackeray said. "We don't intend to move the remains at all." The team instead plans to conduct a forensic analysis using state-of-the-art technology to scan the bones.
The first order of business would be to confirm Shakespeare's identity, according to Thackeray.
"We'll have to establish the age and gender of the individual," he told FoxNews.com. The team plans to DNA test not only Shakespeare himself, but also the remains of his wife and sister, also buried at the Holy Trinity Church.
Another priority will be to solve the longstanding mystery of exactly why Shakespeare died. "We would like to find out the cause of death, which is not known historically," Thackeray said.
Thackeray a decade ago first advanced the controversial theory that Shakespeare used cannabis after he examined a collection of two dozen pipes found in the playwright's garden.
The researcher claimed the devices were used to smoke marijuana, a plant which was actively cultivated in Britain at the time.
"There were very low concentrations of cannabis, but the signature was there," said Inspector Tommy van der Merwe, who tested the pipes at South Africa's Forensic Science Laboratory.
The allegation sparked disbelief and anger among some non-toking fans of Shakespeare.
"I would be happy if they did open it up because it could put an end to a lot of fruitless speculation," Professor Stanley Wells, honorary president of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, told the London Daily Mail.
Digging up the body would go directly against Shakespeare's dying wishes. The playwright, fearful of what might happen to his remains after his death, had a famous curse engraved on his tomb:
"Good friend for Jesus sake forebeare,
To digg the dust encloased heare;
Bleste be the man that spares thes stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones."
"Shakespeare had an unusual obsession with burial and a fear of exhumation," Philip Schwyzer, senior lecturer at Exeter University, told Reuters. "The stern inscription on the slab has been at least partially responsible for the fact that there have been no successful projects to open the grave."