In 1979, the bodies of nine people were discovered near Sverdlovsk by Alexander Avdonin, an amateur archaeologist. It wasn’t until 1998 that these remains were identified as those of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, four servants and three of their daughters, Olga, Tatiana and most likely Anastasia.
In the summer of 2007, 44 bone fragments and teeth were found approximately 70 metres from the site where the other remains were found 30 years earlier. “There was a crunching sound,” Sergei Plotnikov told The Guardian. “This means you’ve hit coal or bone. My friend Leonid and I started to dig. We found several bone fragments. The first was a piece of pelvis. We then discovered a fragment of skull. It had clearly come from a child. We shouted over to the archaeologists. They began an expert search. My heart leaped with joy. I knew immediately that this was the kind of thing that happens only once in a lifetime. I also felt satisfied. I knew the Romanov children would finally be united with the rest of their family. It was clear they didn’t die peacefully. Their remains were very damaged. You could see that they had been covered in acid and burned with flames. What we dug up was in a very bad state. We didn’t find any bullet holes. But it was clear from the bones that some kind of kerosene had been poured over them.”
DNA-testing was conducted on the remains and positively identified them as those of Tsarevich Alexei and a sister, most likely Maria. However, before the ink was dry on these results, there were challenged and this is perhaps one of the reasons that the Russian Orthodox Church has not recognised the remains as those of the Romanov family. As of yet, these remains lie in an archive, awaiting their final burial.
Despite being challenged, the research concludes: “It is has taken nearly 20 years to test, retest, replicate and confirm the Romanov remains with mtDNA, autosomal STRs and Y-STRs. Our field has grown and matured since the original DNA testing of the Romanov remains. The Gill et al. investigation was the first forensic case to show the utility of mtDNA testing of old degraded material. It laid the foundations of the quality assurance methodology: ultraclean rooms, typing analysts and replication of results. It was also the first example of low-template DNA testing with STRs using enhanced cycle numbers. The initial work from 1993 to 1996 was a watershed moment for DNA testing, and despite the feeble attempts to discredit these studies with contaminated data, the results have withstood the test of time throughout scientific advances. It is now time to put this controversy to rest.”1
- Read the full report here.