Monday, February 04, 2013

Finding a king...  

OK - I've been listening to waaaay too many Medieval history courses, but still this is just mind-blowing:
Nonetheless, at the tail end of last summer, a team of experts dug three trenches across the site and began hunting for evidence of the long-lost friary, where Richard III was recorded to have been buried.
The search turned up traces of the building, and then something altogether more exciting: A human skeleton, complete with evidence of battle wounds -- a blow to the head, and an arrow in the back -- and scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.
"I didn't think it was likely to be him at first," explains bioarchaeologist Jo Appleby, who excavated the remains. "The skull didn't seem to be in quite the right place -- now we know that's because of the scoliosis -- but it didn't seem to 'go' with the legs.
"When I lifted the skull and saw the injury, a little alarm bell started to ring, but I told myself perhaps someone had dug into the grave at a later date and hit it with a spade, so I thought 'Don't say anything yet.'
"I cleared the arms and legs, and then went up the spine, hunting for vertebrae, [but] they weren't there, they weren't where I expected them to be. Instead they went in completely the wrong direction. At that point, I thought 'Hang on!'"
"Someone came over and said 'I think you need to see this,'" Buckley says. "We were looking at something else, so I said 'I'm a bit busy at the moment,' and they said 'No, no, you really need to see this.'"
They were stunned to discover the remains were in surprisingly good condition - particularly given the fact they were apparently laid to rest in a simple shroud, with no coffin to protect them. [More]
And then this morning, science adds the crowning moment.
Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch's family.
Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, told a press conference to applause: "Beyond reasonable doubt it's Richard."
Richard, killed in battle in 1485, will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.
Mr Buckley said the bones had been subjected to "rigorous academic study" and had been carbon dated to a period from 1455-1540.
Dr Jo Appleby, an osteo-archaeologist from the university's School of Archaeology and Ancient History, revealed the bones were of a man in his late 20s or early 30s. Richard was 32 when he died.
His skeleton had suffered 10 injuries, including eight to the skull, at around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal.
The spine was badly curved, a condition known as scoliosis, but there was no trace of a withered arm, as some Tudor historians had claimed Richard had. [More]
How cool is that! (Both articles are well-written, please follow the links)

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