July 12, 2013
Viewing Platform Erected At Richard III, Grey Friars Dig Site
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
As archaeologists continue to find pieces of medieval artifacts at the Richard III/Grey Friars dig site under a car park in Leicester, team officials are inviting the public to watch workers do their thing. A public viewing platform was erected at the site on July 10, which allows all passersby a chance to stop and have a look at what is being unearthed at the excavation site.
The site has been under excavation since the beginning of July and will continue to be searched for at least the next three weeks. The 55x82-foot dig site has already revealed some interested finds, including a piece of medieval pottery discovered by University of Leicester interns, a possible floor tile section and an ancient token (see images below).
The medieval floor tiles discovered appear to have been reused in the 17th century garden built by Alderman Robert Herrick, a mayor of Leicester.
While this first week has revealed some very interesting artifacts, the team is hoping to make a discovery that could likely be more disturbing than finding the remains of Richard III, whose body was found to be hastily buried in an unmarked grave with neither coffin nor shroud. If their theories are correct, the remains of three beheaded friars should also be buried somewhere around the Grey Friars church site, possibly in the area of the dig site.
During the excavation, the team members have already reached the outlines of the Grey Friars church walls -- showing the rough size, shape and orientation of the end of the building where Richard III was discovered. In the coming week, the team plans to dig out all the main features of the church and investigate what may lie underneath large stretches of the wall.
Richard III Project officials said the viewing platform, which is located at the north end of the dig site, will be open every day and will be accessible from St. Martins -- a conference center opposite of Leicester Cathedral. The platform will remain open from July 10 through the end of July, with open hours from 9 am to 4 pm local time.
During a previous dig at the site, archaeologists found evidence of at least five other burials at the location, including on 600-year-old coffin that could contain a high status burial -- possibly a knight or other prominent figure.
The archaeological team will also regularly speak with visitors at the site offering them the latest progress and their discoveries.
"It is not often we get the chance to let the public watch excavations in progress. This is great opportunity for the public to stand in an elevated position and watch the work," said lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, of University of Leicester Archaeological Services, based within the School of Archaeology and Ancient History.
"They will get to see how the archaeologists work, as well as what the excavation process entails. They will also have the chance to witness discoveries being made," he added.
"We have made good progress in the first week -- and now have a good sense of the orientation of the wall lines. We have already found a lots of medieval floor tiles which has been reused in Herrick's garden path," noted site director Mathew Morris. "Some are decorated -- and probably from the church -- and the rest are plain and come from the rest of the friary, including the cloister walk."
A Richard III Visitor Center is also being constructed at the site to showcase all the finds that are unearthed from the Richard III/Grey Friars project. The construction is being led by infrastructure firm Morgan Sindall, which is working efficiently with the archaeologists to enable access to the site whilst building work continues.
Charlotte Barratt, Outreach Officer for the Richard III Project, has also been visiting the site frequently, helping out where she can.
In a blog post, Barratt said she had been given more of a part in the excavation recently and made a few discoveries of her own. "Mainly I found chicken bones and oyster shells, which are difficult to date! I did find a tile, like the ones that have been found before and a short price of copper alloy which could be a pin or broach pin."
Most of her finds came along a stretch of the choir stalls underneath old floorboards where things would have fallen in between -- lost forever... or at least until now, she explained.
Images Below: (LEFT) In situ tile floor possibly joining on the rear wall of the choir near Richard III's grave. (RIGHT) A jetton counter or token found at the dig site. Credit: University of Leicester