FLORENCE (AFP) - Archaeologists on Tuesday unearthed a skeleton in a rare state of preservation in Florence in what they believe may be a crucial step towards unravelling the mystery of the identity of the woman with the most enigmatic smile in the world.

Several bodies have been discovered in the hunt to find the mortal remains of Lisa Gherardini, the Florentine noblewoman widely believed to have served as the muse for Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”.

Silvano Vinceti, who heads up the team of Italian archaeologists, said this latest discovery in an abandoned convent was particularly exciting - though tests would still have to be carried out to ascertain the identity of the remains. “I’d say that we’ve got to the really exciting part for researchers,” said Vinceti, who specialise in resolving art mysteries.

“The culmination of all our work where we’re getting close to answering the key question, ‘will we or will we not find Lisa Gherardini’s remains?’.” “Today we opened another tomb, with a complete skeleton which is very important because in the first phase of the research we did not find human remains, they had been moved to another location,” he said.