King Richard III’s skeleton `may have been found`

The University of Leicester has been leading the archaeological search for the burial place of King Richard III with Leicester City Council, in association with the Richard III Society.

Updated: Sep 13, 2012, 17:28 PM IST

Washington: Historic findings of human remains including a man with apparent battle wounds and curvature of the spine have been revealed by a team of archaeologists who have been leading the search for the lost grave of King Richard III.
The University of Leicester has been leading the archaeological search for the burial place of King Richard III with Leicester City Council, in association with the Richard III Society.

The dig, now in its third week, has yielded dramatic findings of human remains which the University will now subject to rigorous laboratory tests.

The stunning findings of human remains excavated by the archaeologists came from the Choir of the Grey Friars Church.

“The University of Leicester applied to the Ministry of Justice under the 1857 Burials Act for permission to exhume human remains found at the Grey Friars site in Leicester,” Richard Taylor, Director of Corporate Affairs at the University and one of the prime movers behind the project, said.

“The work was conducted by Dr Turi King from the University``s Department of Genetics and Dr Jo Appleby and Mathew Morris of our School of Archaeology and Ancient History.

“We have exhumed one fully articulated skeleton and one set of disarticulated human remains. The disarticulated set of human remains was found in what is believed to be the Presbytery of the lost Church of the Grey Friars. These remains are female, and thus certainly not Richard III.

“The articulated skeleton was found in what is believed to be the Choir of the church.

“The articulated skeleton found in the Choir is of significant interest to us. Dr Jo Appleby has carried out a preliminary examination of the remains,” he said.

Five reasons the remains are of interest are – the remains appear to be of an adult male, the Choir is the area reported in the historical record as the burial place of King Richard III, the skeleton, on initial examination, appears to have suffered significant peri-mortem trauma to the skull which appears consistent with an injury received in battle. A bladed implement appears to have cleaved part of the rear of the skull.

Fourthly, a barbed iron arrowhead was found between vertebrae of the skeleton’s upper back and the skeleton found in the Choir area has spinal abnormalities.

“We believe the individual would have had severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder. This is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard’s appearance. The skeleton does not have kyphosis – a different form of spinal curvature. The skeleton was not a hunchback and did not have a “withered arm”,” he said.

“Both sets of remains are now at an undisclosed location where further analysis is being undertaken.

“I need to be very frank. The University has always been clear that any remains would need to be subjected to rigorous laboratory analysis before we confirm the outcome of the search for Richard III.

“We are not saying today that we have found King Richard III. What we are saying is that the Search for Richard III has entered a new phase. Our focus is shifting from the archaeological excavation to laboratory analysis. This skeleton certainly has characteristics that warrant extensive further detailed examination.

“Clearly we are all very excited by these latest discoveries. We have said finding Richard was a long-shot. However it is a testament to the skill of the archaeological team led by Richard Buckley that such extensive progress has been made.

“We have all been witness to a powerful and historic story unfolding before our eyes. It is proper that the University now subjects the findings to rigorous analysis so that the strong circumstantial evidence that has presented itself can be properly understood.

“This is potentially a historic moment for the University and City of Leicester,” he added.