Richard III Gave Bananas In Vain

Posted by er134 at Jun 11, 2013 03:20 PM |
Archaeology and Genetics departments report on Richard III school visits

The School of Archaeology and Ancient History and the Department of Genetics have been working together to deliver Richard III-themed outreach.

Over the past fortnight 400 children and almost 50 teachers from nine local primary schools have visited the University of Leicester to learn more about the archaeology and genetics behind the recent discovery of the remains of Richard III.  Each step of the discovery and identification was represented over a variety of fun, hands-on activities, organised by two departments in collaboration.

The School of Archaeology and Ancient History provided live demonstrations of the types of weapons used to administer Richard's fatal wounds.  The historical re-enactor dressed in full arms and armour was reliably a hit with the kids.  They were given the opportunity to examine a replica skeleton, and compare it to photographs of Richard's own wounded and deformed bones.  They were also given the chance to handle and identify genuine medieval artefacts.

A second laboratory was provided by GENIE Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning based within the Department of Genetics.  This concentrated on the use of genetics to confirm the identity of the skeleton.  The children started by extracting DNA from bananas using similar techniques to those used on Richard's skeleton.  They continued by piecing together fragments of the skeleton’s DNA sequence, and matching it to that of Michael Ibsen, a living relative of the King.  This allowed them to demonstrate that the two were related.  Finally, they learnt to draw family trees, both of Richard's immediate family and then their own.

Throughout the experience all the children remained engaged, taking to each new task with genuine interest and enthusiasm.  By having the chance to carry out real science, in a laboratory, wearing lab coats, they could get a feel for what it is to be a scientist, and by examining the archaeological evidence, they could start to understand what it is to be an archaeologist.

One teacher said, They love learning this way: out of the classroom.

I'll definitely be more interested in science at school, now, added one of her pupils.

Journalists from several news organisations also came to see what was going on. BBC Radio Leicester broadcasted live from the Archaeology/Genetics laboratories on Wednesday morning 5 June 2013.  You can listen to BBC Radio Leicester broadcast 1 hour 10min into the recording. Pukaar News, ITV and the Leicester Mercury were also on hand to report on the day.

  • The Search for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council, and in association with the Richard III Society.
  • Search for Richard III website