Scientific evidence confirms “beyond reasonable doubt” that a skeleton uncovered beneath a Leicester car park is that of Richard III, experts believe.
Testing of bones from the fully intact skeleton, which was unearthed by a team from the University of Leicester and the Richard III Society in a project launched in August 2012, revealed DNA that matched those of descendants of the king’s family. It also pointed to the skeleton belonging to a man in his late 20s or 30s, and has been carbon dated to between 1455 and 1540.
Dr Turi King, project geneticist, said: “The question was could we get a sample of DNA to work with, and I am extremely pleased to tell you that we could. There is a DNA match between the maternal DNA of the descendants of the family of Richard III and the skeletal remains we found at the Greyfriars dig. In short, the DNA evidence points to these being the remains of Richard III.”
Other evidence revealed at this morning’s press conference includes the presence of ten wounds to the skeleton, eight of which were inflicted to the skull and at least one which was caused by a bladed weapon. The severity of the injuries suggests that death may have been caused by trauma to the back of the head. Two of the wounds were possibly fatal, with one thought to have been caused by a halberd and the other by a sword.
Dating of other wounds to his head, rib and pelvis would appear to indicate that the body suffered mistreatment after death, possibly as a result of ‘humiliation injuries’.
The skeleton’s curved spine also shows evidence of scoliosis, although experts believe that the condition may have started at the time of puberty rather than being present from birth. Contrary to the depiction of Richard by writers including Shakespeare, researchers found no evidence of a withered arm with the remains.
Dr Jo Appleby, University of Leicester osteoarchaeologist, 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”.
Richard was killed at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 following a two-year reign. He was buried in a Franciscan friary, known as Greyfriars, in the city, although its demolition in the 16th century meant that the location of the remains remained unknown until last year’s archaeological work. Although details of the skeleton’s reburial are yet to be confirmed, government officials confirmed last November that current plans are for it to be interred in Leicester Cathedral.
To read the thoughts of a panel of historians and experts about the impact of the discovery, as well as what it means to them, click here