Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
Oct. 28, 2006 — Leonardo da Vinci may have had an Arab heritage, according to Italian researchers who have isolated and reconstructed the Renaissance master's fingerprint.
The fingerprint represents the only biological trace of the Florentine genius, said Luigi Capasso, an anthropologist at Chieti University...Fingerprints are unique and don't change over a lifetime. Analysis of the skin's arches, loops and whorls — a science known as dermatoglyphics — has shown that there is a link between fingerprints and populations.
In the case of Leonardo's fingertip, patterns and ridges pointed to the Middle East, the researchers concluded. "The fingerprint features patterns such as the central whorl that are dominant in the Middle East. About 60 percent of the Middle Eastern population display the same dermatoglyphic structure found in the fingerprint," Capasso said.
The discovery would support Vezzosi's claim that Leonardo's mother was not a local peasant girl as previously thought, but a Middle Eastern slave. According to Vezzosi, records unearthed in Vinci offer substantial evidence that Leonardo's father, a craftsman called Ser Piero Da Vinci, owned a Middle-Eastern female slave named Caterina.
"It was common in 15th century Tuscany to own slaves from the Middle East," said Vezzosi. Indeed, in 1452, the same year of Leonardo's birth, a law was passed in Florence that gave slave owners greater rights over their slaves. Shortly after the law was passed, Ser Piero married Caterina off to one of his workers. The woman had just given birth to a boy called Leonardo.