King Richard III Hastily Buried In Grave Without Shroud Or Coffin
May 24, 2013

King Richard III Hastily Buried In Grave Without Shroud Or Coffin

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

A new review on the University of Leicester´s discovery of Richard III´s remains underneath a car park in Leicester has found that the slain King of England was buried in a “hastily dug grave.” The review reveals for the first time specific details of the grave where King Richard III was buried after an excavation team unearthed the site last year. The peer-reviewed paper is published in the journal Antiquity.

Lee Rannals of redOrbit reported last September that a University of Leicester team of scientists had possibly found the remains of Richard III. While at the time they could only surmise that the remains they had found were that of the 15th-century king, the team found evidence of wounds that were consistent with battle wounds Richard III would have received in battle.

It wouldn´t be until nearly five months later that DNA analysis revealed that the remains were in fact those of King Richard III.

Now, researchers are investigating why the short-lived King of England (1483-1485) was buried in such a poor manner.

Among the findings, the paper reveals that Richard III was placed in a badly prepared grave, suggesting gravediggers were in a hurry to bury him; he was placed in an “odd position” with the torso crammed in; the grave was “too short” for a conventional placement of the body; the body was placed on its side, rather than centrally, indicating someone was in the grave to receive the body; and lastly, there is evidence that Richard´s hands were tied when he was buried.

The paper, which includes work from researchers from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, and Department of Genetics, reveals that the grave was too short for the king and had an untidy “lozenge” shape, with the bottom of the grave much smaller than that at ground level.

The head was propped up against one corner of the grave, suggesting that no attempt was made to straighten the body to some degree once it had been lowered in. Also, there was no sign of a shroud or coffin. This burial was much different from other medieval graves found in the area, all of which were the correct length and were dug neatly with vertical walls. This further adds to the theory that gravediggers were in a hurry to bury the body. It is suggestive that perhaps they had little respect for the deceased individual.

This burial site can be compared to the account of medieval historian Polydore Vergil, who said Richard III was buried “without any pomp or solemn funeral,” according to a statement pertaining to the research.

The researchers of the paper included lead archaeologist Richard Buckley and Grey Friars Project director Mathew Morris. It also included contributions from osteoarchaeologist Dr. Jo Appleby, geneticist Dr Turi King, medieval friary expert Deirdre O'Sullivan and Professor Lin Foxhall, Head of the University's School of Archaeology and Ancient History.

“The Grey Friars Project has been unusual in the nature of the collaboration between professional and academic archaeologists, an amateur group (the Richard III Society) and the City of Leicester. However, this also means that the project has addressed two different but overlapping sets of research questions, not all of which specialists would routinely ask,” wrote the authors.

“Projects developed in this way may become more common in future as non-specialists increasingly become users, stakeholders and participants in academic research. What is somewhat different from the ways in which archaeological professionals and amateurs have generally worked together is that in this case the non-specialists played a role in shaping the intellectual frameworks of the project, although the final project design (including how questions could appropriately be asked of the evidence), and the execution of the project in practical terms remained in the hands of the archaeologists,” they continued.

“The paper highlights the fact that this was a public archaeology project initiated by Philippa Langley, a member of the Richard III Society, and executed by a team of archaeologists and other specialists from the University of Leicester. At this stage we have discovered enough of the plan of the Grey Friars precinct to feel confident that we have identified parts of the eastern range, the chapter house and the eastern end of the church, including the transition between the choir and the presbytery,” the authors conclude.

With this understanding, the researchers have confirmed that the hastily dug site in Trench 1 is in the correct place indicated by fifteenth- and sixteenth-century sources as the grave of King Richard III.

And this evidence can be corroborated with previous DNA analysis, wound markings, scoliosis and other injuries found in the remains. All the evidence clearly points to the identification of this individual as King Richard III. Indeed, it is nearly impossible to explain the combined evidence as belonging to anyone else.

“This discovery has been a focus of major public interest and debate, and we are delighted to publish the details of the excavation that have helped lead the team to their conclusion,” commented Prof. Chris Scarre, editor of Antiquity.

The full report on the bone and DNA tests will be published in a future paper.