Richard III dig: 'Strong evidence' bones are lost king


Richard Taylor from the University of Leicester says there are five clues the skeleton may be Richard III, including an arrow found in its back

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

The English king died at the battle of Bosworth in 1485.

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."

Richard III: Analysis

Richard III

Dr Steven Gunn, University of Oxford

After the battle of Bosworth Henry VII didn't want anyone claiming that they were Richard III and had survived the battle.

Richard's body was taken to Leicester, slung naked over the back of a horse, and publicly displayed so people could see he was dead.

But there was the problem of how and where to bury him - what seems likely is that they wanted to avoid anything that would generate a posthumous cult.

There was a tradition in medieval England that people who were political victims then became popular saints. They wouldn't have wanted to bury him in York, where he was very popular.

Greyfriars was convenient and safe. Henry VII put steps in action for a tomb to be built, and the inscription was to be ambivalent, and in some ways rude about Richard III, talking about his nephews and indicating that he wasn't a very good king. There is evidence that people talked about him being buried there.

Listen: What really happened at the battle of Bosworth?

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.

Work focused on the choir area, in the centre of the church, where it was indicated Richard was interred.

The bones were lifted by archaeologists wearing forensic body suits in an effort to limit contamination by modern materials.

DNA will be extracted from the bones and tested against descendants of Richard's family.

Dr Turi King, who is leading the DNA analysis, said: "It is extremely exciting and slightly nerve-wracking.

"We have extracted teeth from the skull, so we have that and a femur, and we are optimistic we will get a good sample from those."

The tests are expected to take about 12 weeks to complete.

If their identity is confirmed, Leicester Cathedral said it would work with the Royal Household, and with the Richard III Society, to ensure the remains were treated with dignity and respect and reburied with the appropriate rites and ceremonies of the church.

Work to record the finds are continuing and discussions about when to fill in the trenches are ongoing, officials said.

1741 and 2012 maps of Leicester Archaeologists used a 1741 map of Leicester to find the site of Greyfriars and then compared this to the modern city to find where to dig

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  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    I love the Queen and the royals but I would rather archaeologists to use their skills on the modern world. helping deal with such tasks a mass grave’s so we can bring justice back to this world as quite frankly, I personally and the survivors of genocide, mass killing’s like in “Syria” do not give a crap about Richard the 3rd, sorry if this offends some one has to say it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Really important topic, about which nobody who posts will have a real idea or opinion. Hillsborough? Unemployment? Propaganda film currently in the news now showing on You Tube? .......

    Oh, it's stopped raining. Ta ta.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    @90 Myself

    1.Honestly how can anyone mark down my comment negatively; look firstly when it comes to history in the UK, unless it is Anglo-Saxon or Roman, it get ignored

    2.My comment was basically saying that those people “archaeologists” should be helping society NOW by aiding in the capture of war criminals etc. not digging around trying to get their own name in the history books.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.


    How much to archaeologists get paid?. Their profession is as much use as kiddies building sandcastles on the beach. It is possible to FAKE the past but not the future.


  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    What damned difference does it matter now in 2012 about some lost bones, there are enough news items to concern people here and now on the HYS but are not available for them to comment on. Come on BBC get real and stop being the Govt fallguys.


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