King Richard Found

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A skeleton found under a carpark in  Leicester has been confirmed  as that of King Richard III,  one of history’s most notorious villains.

There was a skeleton found which had a curvature in the spine and a fractured skull with many wounds, probably from battle. This was found in the original location of the choir of the church where it was supposed King Richard lll was buried.

This find had involved a number of people; there was a small team of archaeologists who had unearthed the skeleton. They had found about four others which were of no interest- they were found to be too old to be King Richard.













They had found the remains of a female who possibly was the Friar’s benefactor. Amongst the female was another female who was a 13th century woman with the name of Ellen Luenor.

The odds of finding King Richard were very small. According to dig site manager Matthew Morris,  “It felt like a one in a million chance. It just seemed so improbable we would find anything.”

The Greyfriars church is a huge plot, which had extended 13,000sq ft beneath buildings, walls, electrical cables, underground phone lines and gas pipes. (Greyfriars church was demolished during the Reformation in the 16th Century and over the following centuries its exact location was forgotten.)

A series of tests with ground-probing radar indicated the spots where Matthew and his team could not dig, which left just 17 per cent of the church building available to excavate.

Then from that, the archaeological team had chosen one per cent of the entire church grounds to excavate, due to limitations with their finances and time. This was surely improbable.

“By the time we picked our spot and started digging, we had narrowed the size of the entire friary to a spot which accounted for just 0.06 per cent of the total grounds,” said Matthew.

Mathew was right to take the risk because on the first morning, on the first day, he came across some human remains – a left leg. “I spotted a bone on the first morning of the dig – we would have found it in the first hour of excavating if it wasn’t for the camera crew – but we didn’t realise the importance of what we had found at first. “We didn’t know whether it was male and we hadn’t seen the trauma or the spine yet. Our priority was to find the church first and determine the layout, so we found the body too early – there was no context as to where in the church the remains had been buried.”

The team had used a fairly specific location proposed by Oadby historian David Baldwin, it was almost 30 years ago, and he predicted the site would be found “at the northern end of St Martins”.

Matthew and colleague Dr Jo Appleby – a lecturer in human bio-archaeology at the University of Leicester – began digging.

Although Matthew did have the honour of finding the skeleton, it was up to Dr Appleby to remove it from the earth. Because of the unceremonious way the body had been dumped in the grave, the head had shifted to the right and, unfortunately, took a knock from Dr Appleby’s blade.

“It was very compacted sediment so I needed the mattock,” she said. “I would never have used it if I’d known I was centimetres from a skull.” But at this point the team still had no idea as to the significance of their find.

“After the skull, I decided to work from the bottom up. It was only when I got to the vertebrae that I started to relax and I began to think ‘it’s probably not him’. The first four vertebrae I uncovered were buried where I expected and I uncovered them as normal. I uncovered more vertebrae which carried on to the side and I began to think ‘I think we’ve found him’.”

As Dr Appleby passed out the pieces of King Richard’s remains, Matthew carefully placed them into protective boxes, which would then be taken to the university.

A few more clues, such as battle wounds to the skull and the curving of the spine, had begun to get the team excited. But it was only August and it would be a long time before the identity of their skeleton was confirmed by DNA analysis.


 Jelani, Year 8

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Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar, Alford

5 Responses to King Richard Found

  1. admin February 6, 2013 at 7:02 am

    It’s quite simply one of the most bizarre archaeological finds for a very long time.

    I watched the channel4 documentary on Monday night and it was fascinating, funny and remarkable. In my opinion there was a mixture of sheer luck, blind faith with a touch of brilliance by the experts to realise what they had found.

    The strangest and most surreal thing for me though was finding a descendent of Richard III…I wonder if I am descended from nobility?!!

    Great report Jelani.

    YJA Managing Editor

    • Jelani February 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      Yeh it was a great find and mostly out of shear luck!
      It must feel great to be a descendant of King Richard the third,and nobility!!!

  2. admin February 7, 2013 at 8:28 am

    A really detailed report, Jelani, well done!

    It was the shape of his back and shoulders that really amazed me, confirming Richard’s disfigurement described in our history books.

    As for the team working on the project, they really did ‘get the hump’.

    My daughter, by the way, lives a stones throw from the discovery so naturally she’s very excited about it.

    Looking forward to your next story!


  3. Emily February 11, 2013 at 8:02 am

    This will go down in history!! Shame i wasnt involved in the archeological findings it would have been fun!!!!

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