Most likely cause of King Richard III’s death identified
Facial skeleton Digital photograph; arrow shows the penetrating injury to the maxilla. Credit: The Lancet
New research led by Leicester scientists gives a blow-by-blow account of the injuries inflicted on King Richard III’s body at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August, 1485.
Modern forensic analysis of the King’s skeletal remains reveals that three of his injuries had the potential to cause death quickly- two to the skull (pictured top left) and one to the pelvis (pictured bottom right).
The forensic imaging team, working with the Forensic Pathology Unit and our Department of Engineering, used whole body CT scans and micro-CT imaging of injured bones to analyse trauma to the 500-year-old skeleton carefully, and to determine which of the King’s wounds might have proved fatal. They also analysed tool marks on bone to identify the medieval weapons potentially responsible for his injuries.
The results, published in The Lancet, show that Richard’s skeleton sustained 11 wounds at or near the time of his death—nine of them to the skull, clearly inflicted in battle and suggesting he had removed or lost his helmet, and two to the postcranial skeleton.
Investigators in our School of Archaeology and Ancient History surmise that the postcranial injuries, including the potentially fatal one to the pelvis, might have been inflicted after Richard’s death, on the basis that had he been alive he would have been wearing a specific type of armour worn in the late 15th century that would have prevented such wounds.
- The Dig for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society. The originator of the Search project was Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society.
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