University of Leicester archaeologists have found a ‘prime candidate’ for the remains of Richard III, it was announced today (12 September): a male skeleton with possible battle injuries and a distorted spine.
The articulated remains of an adult male were uncovered during the third week of excavations at the recently rediscovered church of Greyfriars – where historical accounts say Richard was buried following his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
Interred in the friary’s choir– the most prestigious part of the church – the man appeared to have suffered fatal injuries to his skull, caused by a bladed weapon and consistent with battle wounds. A tanged arrowhead was also found between two of his vertebrae.
Crucially, the University of Leicester’s Richard Taylor said, the man had suffered from serious curvature of the spine, which matched popular perceptions of the last Plantagenet king’s appearance.
‘The skeleton has spinal abnormalities,’ he said at today’s press conference. ‘We believe the individual would have had severe scoliosis, a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder, which is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard’s appearance.’
Unlike Shakespeare’s portrayal of monarch, however, he added: ”The skeleton does not have kyphosis — a different form of spinal curvature – and was not a hunchback. There appears to be no evidence of a “withered arm”.’
‘We are not saying today that we have definitely found Richard III, but the investigation has now entered a new phase, focussing on laboratory analysis,’ Richard Taylor said. ‘There is clearly strong circumstantial evidence that this could be Richard.’
‘We would be very surprised if other people buried in the church had these injuries and conditions,’ added Richard Buckley, who is leading the investigations on the site. ‘This is a prime candidate for Richard III.’
The recovered remains are now to undergo DNA analysis, which will take up to 12 weeks. Results will be compared with DNA taken from a living relative of Richard III, a British Canadian man who is the king’s 17th generation great nephew.
Professor Lin Foxhall, head of Archaeology at the University of Leicester, said: ‘The archaeological context and the skeletal conditions are very promising – this is a man with battle injuries and severe scoliosis.
‘He was respectfully but modestly buried in the church, and despite his disability this was a strong and active man.’
‘We are all very excited by this latest discovery,’ Richard Taylor added. ‘We said finding Richard was a long shot, but these results are a testament to the work of the team, led by Richard Buckley. We have all been witness to a powerful story unfolding before our eyes, and this is potentially a historic moment both for the city of Leicester and for Leicester University.’
View part of the press conference here
We will be running the full story on this discovery in CA 272.