Evidence from bone analysis

Dr Jo Appleby, an osteoarchaeologist based at the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, conducted an extensive examination of the Grey Friars skeleton.

Her main findings were:

• The individual was male, in his late 20s to late 30s, and had gracile or feminine build

• He had severe scoliosis - perhaps with an onset at the time of puberty

• Although around 5feet 8 inches tall (1.61m), his disability meant he would have stood up to one foot (0.3m) shorter and his right shoulder would be higher than the left

• Trauma to the skeleton suggests death following a significant blow to the rear of the skull

• Other injuries may have occurred at around the time of death. These include several injuries to the head, one to the rib and one to the pelvis – thought to have been caused by a wound through the right buttock.

• Evidence suggests significant post-mortem mutilation – ‘insult wounds’ although the face may have been deliberately left intact to ensure he was still recognisable

Dr Appleby said: “Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III.

“The analysis of the skeleton proved that it was an adult male, but with an unusually slender, almost feminine, build for a man. This is in keeping with historical sources which describe Richard as being of very slender build. There is, however, no indication that he had a withered arm – both arms were of a similar size and both were used normally during life.

“The skeleton is that of an individual aged between the late twenties and late thirties. We know that Richard III was 32 when he died, and this is entirely consistent with the Grey Friars skeleton.

“Without the spinal abnormality, the Grey Friars skeleton would have stood roughly 5’ 8”  (1.72m) high. This would have been above average height for a medieval male; however, the curve in the spine would have taken a significant amount off his apparent height when standing.

“This individual was not born with scoliosis, but it developed after the age of ten. The condition would have put additional strain on the heart and lungs, and it may have caused pain, but we cannot be specific about this.

“Our work has shown that a large wound to the base of the skull at the back represents a ‘slice’ cut off the skull by a bladed weapon. We cannot say for certain exactly what weapon caused this injury, but it is consistent with something similar to a halberd.

“A smaller injury, also on the base of the skull, was caused by a bladed weapon which penetrated through to the inner surface of the skull opposite the entry point, a distance of 10.5 cm. Both of these injuries would have caused almost instant loss of consciousness, and death would have followed quickly afterwards.

“A further three wounds have been identified on the outer surface of the vault of the skull. In addition to these, there is a small rectangular injury on the cheekbone. Finally on the skull, there is a cut mark on the lower jaw, caused by a bladed weapon, consistent with a knife or dagger. We speculate that the helmet had been lost by this stage in the battle.

“This has led us to speculate that they may reflect attacks on the body after death, although we cannot confirm this directly from the bones. Examples of such ‘humiliation injuries’ are well known from the historical and forensic literature, and historical sources have suggested that Richard’s body was mistreated after the battle.

“In addition, there is a cut mark on a rib which did not penetrate the ribcage and an injury on the right pelvis. This is highly consistent with being a blade wound from a knife or dagger, which came from behind in an upward movement.

“Detailed three-dimensional reconstruction of the pelvis has indicated that this injury was caused by a thrust through the right buttock, not far from the midline of the body.

“These two wounds are also likely to have been inflicted after armour had been removed from the body. This leads us to speculate that they may also represent post-mortem humiliation injuries inflicted on this individual after death.”

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