Search This Blog

Monday, September 17, 2012

Richard III excavated

Archaeologists searching for the grave of Richard III have said "strong circumstantial evidence" points to a skeleton being the lost king. 

Richard III

The English king, who suffered from scoliosis (curvature of the spine), died at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, and was buried secretly, so that his grave would not become a shrine.

A dig under a council car park in Leicester has found remains with spinal abnormalities and a "cleaved-in skull" that suggest it could be Richard III.

The University of Leicester will now test the bones for DNA against descendants of Richard's family.

Professor Lin Foxhall, head of the university's School of Archaeology, said: "Archaeology almost never finds named individuals - this is absolutely extraordinary.

"Although we are far from certain yet, it is already astonishing."

A university spokesperson said the evidence included signs of a peri-mortem (near-death) trauma to the skull and a barbed iron arrow head in the area of the spine.

Richard is recorded by some sources as having been pulled from his horse and killed with a blow to the head.

The skeleton also showed severe scoliosis - a curvature of the spine.

Although not as pronounced as Shakespeare's portrayal of the king as a hunchback, the condition would have given the adult male the appearance of having one shoulder higher than the other.

Philippe Langley, from the Richard III Society, said: "It is such a tumult of emotions, I am shell-shocked.

"I just feel happy and sad and excited all at the same time. It is very odd."

As the defeated foe, Richard was given a low-key burial in the Franciscan friary of Greyfriars.

This was demolished in the 1530s, but documents describing the burial site have survived.

The excavation, which began on 25 August, has uncovered the remains of the cloisters and chapter house, as well as the church.

Read the full BBC story


Mark Hubbard said...

I'm loving following this story.

Joan Druett said...

Have you read Josephine Tey's "Daughter of Time," where her inspector sleuth investigates Richard III while convalescing? A brilliant book, first read in my teens, I think. A life-changer. You can buy the ebook for 99c on Amazon or read it free courtesy of Gutenberg,

Mark Hubbard said...

I'll have a look. Although regarding the actual story, I suspect the archeologists might have departed on a fanciful detour. As far as I remember, there is no proof Richard III was a hunchback ... yes he died in battle (last English monarch to do so), but the hunchback was purely made up by Shakespeare to make him appear more evil, wasn't it?

Joan Druett said...

That's what Josephine Tey's book is all about. You have to remember that Shakespeare was sponsored by the Tudors, and wouldn't have written anything that reflected on them. So he was going along with their propaganda. The problem with untestable theories is that people will cling to them, just because they can't be tested. But the DNA results might be interesting...

Shayne Parkinson said...

I was all set to recommend "Daughter of Time", but I see that you're ahead of me, Joan. :) I love that book. Funnily enough I re-read it just recently.

I'm really enjoying following this story. One of the many fascinating aspects is that they needed to find a living relative in the female line - just imagine trying to track a female line down 500 years!

Mark Hubbard said...

Hah. Yes, Shakespeare was the firt political blogger.