September 12, 2012

King Richard III Body Possibly Discovered

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Archaeologists are saying they have uncovered some human remains during their search for King Richard III.

It is yet to be confirmed that the remains that have been found actually belong to the late king, but they are digging in an area where they believed him to be buried.

The University of Leicester team said that the examination of the remains revealed possible wounds that are consistent with battle wounds King Richard III would have received, but not consistent with other stories of him being a wicked hunchback.

The remains, which were uncovered during the third week of the dig, will now be subjected to rigorous laboratory tests.

The human remains were excavated by the archaeologists at 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, said in a statement. "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."

He said that the team has unearthed 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," Taylor added. "These remains are female, and thus certainly not Richard III."

He said the articulated skeleton was found in what is believed to be the Choir of the church, and the remains are of particular interest to the archaeologists for five reasons.

The first reason for having high interest in the remains is because it appears to be an adult male.

The second reason is because the Choir area is historically known as the burial place of King Richard III.

The third reason is that the skeleton appears to have suffered significant peri-mortem trauma to the skull, which is consistent with an injury received in battle. Taylor said that a bladed implement appears to have cleaved part of the rear of the skull.

The fourth reason of interest is due to the barbed iron arrowhead found between vertebrae of the skeleton's upper back.

Finally, the fifth reason the archaeologists tend to believe these remains belong to King Richard III is because the skeleton has spinal abnormalities.

"We believe the individual would have had severe scoliosis — which is a form of spinal curvature," Taylor said in the statement. "This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder."

This abnormality is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard's appearance. However, it does not coincide with stories that King Richard III was a hunchback with a withered arm.

Taylor said both sets of remains are now at an undisclosed location and that they are the subject of some serious laboratory testing and analysis before confirmation is made.

"We are not saying today that we have found King Richard III," he said in the statement. "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."

He said the team is very excited about the latest discoveries and that being able to find King Richard III was considered to be a long shot.

"We have all been witness to a powerful and historic story unfolding before our eyes," Taylor said. "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."

The fact that the skeleton is not a hunchback isn't a reason to get discouraged by the findings because modern belief doesn't agree with this account.

"There was a long history from Greco-Roman times onward of associating disability with negative character traits, a belief that we do not share today, though it partially explains the later Tudor representation of Richard III," Professor Lin Foxhall, Head of the School of Archaeology & Ancient History at the University of Leicester, said in the statement.

"If this person does indeed turn out to be King Richard III there is the potential for a new and different understanding of the fate of the last of the Plantagenet kings," Foxhall said.

The team will now extract DNA from the skeletal material, and compare it to a known living relative of Richard III to see if it matches.

"Needless to say this is an extremely exciting project to be involved with and I'm very hopeful that we can bring DNA evidence to bear on the question as to whether or not this indeed Richard III," Dr. Turi King, who is leading the DNA analysis and academic in the University's Department of Genetics, said in the statement.