University of Leicester announces discovery of King Richard III

Posted by pt91 at Feb 04, 2013 11:20 AM |
The University of Leicester today confirms (Monday, Feb 4) that it has discovered the remains of King Richard III.

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 4 February 2013

UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER REVEALS:

• Wealth of evidence, including radiocarbon dating, radiological evidence, DNA and bone analysis and archaeological results, confirms identity of last Plantagenet king who died over 500 years ago

• DNA from skeleton matches TWO of Richard III’s maternal line relatives.  Leicester genealogist verifies living relatives of Richard III’s family

• Individual likely to have been killed by one of two fatal injuries to the skull – one possibly from a sword and one possibly from a halberd

• 10 wounds discovered on skeleton - Richard III killed by trauma to the back of the head.  Part of the skull sliced off

• Radiocarbon dating reveals individual had a high protein diet – including significant amounts of seafood – meaning he was likely to be of high status

• Radiocarbon dating reveals individual died in the second half of the 15th or in the early 16th century – consistent with Richard’s death in 1485

• Skeleton reveals severe scoliosis – onset believed to have occurred at the time of puberty

• Although around 5 feet 8 inches tall (1.72m), condition meant King Richard III would have stood significantly  shorter and his right shoulder may have been higher than the left

• Feet were truncated at an unknown point in the past, but a significant time after the burial

• Corpse was subjected to ‘humiliation injuries’ –including a sword through the right buttock

• Individual had unusually slender, almost feminine, build for a man – in keeping with contemporaneous accounts

• No evidence for ‘withered arm’ –as portrayed by Shakespeare – found

• Possibility that the individual’s hands were tied

• Grave was hastily dug, was not big enough and there was no shroud or coffin

Media resources including video; still images; captions; key contact numbers and additional information at:  http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/media-centre/richard-iii

The University of Leicester today confirms (Monday, Feb 4) that it has discovered the remains of King Richard III.

At a specially convened media conference, experts from across the University unanimously identified the remains discovered in Leicester city centre as being those of the last Plantagenet king who died in 1485.

Rigorous scientific investigations confirmed the strong circumstantial evidence that the skeleton found at the site of the Grey Friars church in Leicester was indeed that of King Richard III.

University of Leicester researchers have revealed a wealth of evidence – including DNA analysis, radiocarbon dating and skeletal examination - proving the identity of the skeleton.

University of Leicester archaeologists co-director Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the Search for Richard III, said: “It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that the individual exhumed at Grey Friars in August 2012 is indeed King Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England.

“It has been an honour and privilege for all of us to be at the centre of an academic project that has had such phenomenal global interest and mass public appeal. Rarely have the conclusions of academic research been so eagerly awaited.”

University of Leicester geneticist Dr Turi King confirmed that DNA from the skeleton matches that of two of Richard III’s family descendants – Canadian-born furniture maker Michael Ibsen and a second person who wishes to remain anonymous.

Dr King, of the University’s Department of Genetics, said: “The DNA sequence obtained from the Grey Friars skeletal remains was compared with the two maternal line relatives of Richard III. We were very excited to find that there is a DNA match between the maternal DNA from the family of Richard the Third and the skeletal remains we found at the Grey Friars dig.”

Skeletal analysis carried out by University of Leicester osteoarchaeologist Dr Jo Appleby showed that the individual was male and in his late 20s to late 30s. Richard III was 32 when he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The individual had a slender physique and severe scoliosis – a curvature of the spine – possibly with one shoulder visibly higher than the other. This is consistent with descriptions of Richard III’s appearance from the time.

Trauma to the skeleton indicates the individual died after one of two significant wounds to the back of the skull – possibly caused by a sword and a halberd.

This is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard being killed after receiving a blow to the back of his head.

The skeleton also showed a number of non-fatal injuries to the head, rib and pelvis – believed to have been caused by a wound through the right buttock – which may have been caused by ‘humiliation injuries’ after death.

Dr Appleby’s analysis is backed up by radiological evidence carried out by University of Leicester forensic pathologists and forensic engineering experts.

Dr Appleby, of the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, said: “The skeleton has a number of unusual features: its slender build, the scoliosis and the battle-related trauma. All of these are highly consistent with the information that we have about Richard III in life and about the circumstances of his death. Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III.”

The verdict also drew from circumstantial evidence at the dig site, radiocarbon dating, genealogical evidence and comparison with historical sources.

The University of Leicester, in association with Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society, led the Search for Richard III.

The Search for Richard III is also the subject of a Channel 4 documentary made by Darlow Smithson Productions.

The documentary makers had exclusive access to the search team during the archaeological dig and during the scientific tests to determine the skeleton’s identity.

Their documentary, Richard III: King in the Car Park, can be seen at 9pm on Channel 4 today (Monday, February 4).

More information about Channel 4’s Richard III: King in the Car Park documentary can be found at: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/richard-iii-the-king-in-the-car-park/episode-guide/series-1/episode-1

The public can find more information about the University of Leicester’s Search for Richard III at: www.le.ac.uk/richardiii

Ends

Notes

Media resources including video; still images; captions; key contact numbers and additional information at:  http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/media-centre/richard-iii

For more information, please contact:

• Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist on the Search for Richard III, University of Leicester Archaeological Services: 0776 2546960 and email rjb16@le.ac.uk

• Professor Lin Foxhall, Head of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, tel: 0116 252 2773; mobile: 07740 540264; lf4@le.ac.uk

• Richard Taylor, Deputy Registrar and Director of Corporate Affairs, email: rst8@le.ac.uk;  tel 0744 593 1887 (calls), 07917595202, (texts), 0116 252 5386

Press Office Contact:

Ather Mirza

tel: 0116 252 3335

email: pressoffice@le.ac.uk

or

Peter Thorley

0116 252 2415

pt91@le.ac.uk

Other key quotes

“This is an historic and perhaps defining moment in the story of Leicester and I am proud that the University of Leicester has played a pivotal role in the telling of that story. From the outset, the search for Richard III was a thrilling prospect but it has involved many hours of dedicated research by our team that has led to the astonishing finds we have disclosed. The search has caught the imagination of not only the people of Leicester and Leicestershire but beyond and has received global media attention.  It is a measure of the power of archaeology to excite public interest and provide a narrative about our heritage.”

Richard Buckley, Archaeological lead in the Search for Richard III, University of Leicester

“Archaeology is a team effort.  No one person could dig up the whole site. You need people who have expertise in very different things – and each different person with their specialist skill can add to the picture.”

Professor Lin Foxhall, Head of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester

“When I first agreed to be the human osteologist for the project I had no idea that we would find remains of such significance. After months of careful analysis, we can now say that the evidence from the bone analysis provides a highly convincing case for the identification of Richard III. It has been hugely interesting to see the case for identification gradually unfold, and especially to see how closely the skeleton that we have found corresponds to contemporary accounts of Richard's appearance.”

Dr Jo Appleby, Human Bioarchaeologist, University of Leicester

“This has been a tremendously exciting project to be a part of and it's been a privilege to work as part such a great team.  I will never forget the feeling of looking at the first sequencing results and seeing the match; I went utterly still. The study isn't over and there's still more work to be done, but at least the big part is out of the way: the DNA evidence, along with the archaeological evidence, makes an incredibly strong case for these being the remains of Richard III.”

Dr Turi King, geneticist, University of Leicester

“I’d realised the skeleton was going to be interesting as soon as Jo found the battle injuries on the skull but was still not seriously considering that it could be Richard III; so it was a bit of a shock when the curve of the spine was found.  Then, with a lot of disbelief, there was this dawning realisation that if you had a check list of everything you wanted to see on a skeleton to say it was Richard III, this ticked every box.  The enormity of the discovery didn’t sink in till much later though.  As an archaeologist it is really unusual to be given a chance to looking for someone who you can actually put a name to, who isn’t anonymous but is an important historical figure with a tangible story.  Sometimes it feels a bit surreal, Indiana Jones-ish even - ‘The University of Leicester and the Quest for the Lost King’!”

Mathew Morris, Archaeological Site Director, University of Leicester

“What we have done is to look at the line from Anne of York to Michael Ibsen and accurately checked every link of the chain. We have been very successful in proving that link, and I think that’s an important part of the scientific experiment.”

Professor Kevin Schürer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and genealogist, University of Leicester

“It’s been very pleasing to have my work vindicated, it’s been quite exciting. When you put your ideas forward you don’t expect to see them proven to this extent. I’ll admit I didn’t think there was much chance of finding anything, but when the project was announced I did hope for the best. Now, it’s hard to believe the extent to which my prediction has been proved right.”

David Baldwin, former University of Leicester History tutor who predicted in 1986 that sometime in the 21st century the remains of Richard III would be found.

“This astonishing announcement is far beyond what anyone expected in their wildest dreams when the search at Grey Friars first began.  The University of Leicester Archaeological Services should rightly be very proud that their painstaking work which has enabled these remains to be positively identified as those of King Richard III.  There is overwhelming evidence from their research that these are indeed the remains of the last Plantagenet king. The city should be honoured to be home to such a fantastic University, which has put itself and the city at the centre of well-deserved global recognition for this find.

“The discovery of King Richard III's remains, in the heart of Leicester's old town, will undoubtedly be the start of an exciting new chapter for the city.”

City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby

“This has been an extraordinary journey of discovery.  We came with a dream and today that dream has been realised. This is an historic moment that will rewrite the history books.”

Philippa Langley, originator of the Search for the King, Richard III Society

  • 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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