Skeleton of Suspected Medieval King Undergoes Testing

LiveScience.com
Possible Richard III Discovery Sparks Controversy
.

View gallery

A mutilated skeleton unearthed from a medieval church in Leicester is undergoing testing to determine if it belongs to Richard III, an unlucky king of England who died in battle in 1485.

Archaeologists unearthed the skeleton in the choir of Grefriars, a medieval church that had been buried under a parking lot. Though the church had been lost, historical records suggest that Richard III was buried there after his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field, during the War of the Roses, an English civil war.

If the body is Richard's, archaeologists hope the find will shed light on a person known best through William Shakespeare's fictionalized account in the play "Richard III."

Suspected king

The skeleton is a good candidate for the lost king. It was found in the choir area of the church, matching historical records of the burial. The skeleton appears to be an adult male, and has a wounded skull — as if someone had cleaved it with an axe or sword. That would be consistent with a death in battle. A barbed arrowhead was also found in the skeleton's spine.

The skeleton also shows signs of scoliosis, or an abnormally curved spine. This would have made the man's right shoulder pop up higher than his left, which matches contemporary accounts of Richard III. (In later accounts, he's often incorrectly portrayed as a hunchback.) [Gallery: The Search for Richard III's Grave]

Ongoing analysis

However, researchers have to be sure before they make any pronouncements on the skeleton's identity. They're currently subjecting the skeleton to a barrage of tests, including a computed tomography (CT) scan, which will allow them to reconstruct a three-dimensional image of the skeleton with flesh and skin overlaid. They eventually plan to reconstruct the man's face, though this procedure can be somewhat unreliable.

Soil samples from around the skeleton where the body decomposed, along with dental plaque, will help researchers find out more about the man's health and diet. Scientists have also extracted samples from the teeth and bones to attempt a DNA test on the skeleton. They'll compare any usable DNA with that of Michael Ibsen, a living descendent of Richard III's sister Anne of York.

Simultaneously, researchers are radiocarbon dating the skeleton to confirm the time of death — within about 80 years, that is. Specialists in medieval weaponry are consulting on the man's possible battle wounds.

"We are looking at many different lines of enquiry, the evidence from which all add up to give us more assurance about the identity of the individual," Richard Buckley, the director of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, said in a statement. "As well as the DNA testing, we have to take in all of the other pieces of evidence, which tell us about the person's lifestyle — including his health and where he grew up."

A second female skeleton found in the church may be one of the church founders, researchers suspect. Results for the male skeleton are expected early next year.

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter @sipappas or LiveScience @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
View Comments (48)

Recommended for You

  • Luggage piece found on French island near possible MH370 debris

    Part of a bag was found Thursday on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion not far from plane debris which has fuelled speculation it may be from missing flight MH370. "The piece of luggage was here since yesterday but nobody really paid attention," said Johnny Begue, a member of a local…

    AFP
  • David Cassidy prepares to auction Florida mansion

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Like many of his baby boomer peers with grown children and debts to settle, one-time heartthrob David Cassidy is looking to downsize.

    Associated Press46 mins ago
  • Eight family members decapitated in north Mexico

    Eight people from the same family, including two minors, were kidnapped by masked gunmen and their decapitated bodies were found days later in northern Mexico, authorities said Wednesday. The bodies were found after a ninth member of the Martinez family escaped Sunday's abduction near Casa Quemada,…

    AFP
  • China to prosecute former top officer for graft

    China will prosecute a former top military officer for corruption, the government said on Thursday, the second senior officer to be investigated, as President Xi Jinping widens his campaign against deep-rooted graft in the country. Guo Boxiong, 73, was a vice chairman of the powerful Central…

    Reuters
  • Colorado theater shooter's dad saw wide-eyed smirk before

    CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — James Holmes came home on winter break from graduate school looking haggard and making odd facial expressions, but his father didn't suspect at the time that he was descending into mental illness.

    Associated Press
  • An American Dentist Killed Zimbabwe’s Famous Lion

    Cecil the lion, a famous black-maned resident of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, died at the hands of an American dentist, conservationists claim. “Mr. Palmer shot Cecil with a bow and arrow but this shot didn't kill him,” Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, said in…

    TakePart.com
  • Play

    Body cam footage from Cincinnati shooting contradicts official story

    A University of Cincinnati police officer has been indicted for murder after body camera footage contradicted his official story outlining the events that led to the shooting death of unarmed Cincinnati driver Samuel Dubose.

    Reuters Videos
  • Family Pet-Sitter Helps Herself To Homeowner's Possessions

    DEAR ABBY: A trusted and beloved family member who takes care of my cats -- and therefore has a key to my house -- has been stealing things like cleaning supplies, knickknacks, family pictures, etc. Most of them have little monetary value. But imagine my surprise when I spotted some of my missing…

    Dear Abby
  • Dashcam catches off-duty cop threatening to put 'hole in head' of driver

    Technically Incorrect: A Massachusetts driver makes a wrong turn. What happens next, all filmed on his dashcam, has led to an investigation. And yes, it's now on YouTube.

    CNET
  • Russia reassures Israel over Iran nuclear deal

    Russian President Vladimir Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that the deal on Iran's nuclear program would improve security in the Middle East and guaranteed that Tehran would not acquire nuclear arms. Israel plans to lobby the U.S. Congress not to approve the…

    Reuters
  • Chicago man cleared after 17 years in prison shot dead

    CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago man who served 17 years in prison for murder before being cleared of the crime has been shot and killed almost three years after being released from prison, police said Wednesday.

    Associated Press
  • Cobra caught after taking residence in Houston luxury condo complex

    Police and animal control officers captured a venomous albino snake that had camped out in the hallway of a luxury Houston condominium building and prevented frightened residents from using their front doors, authorities said on Thursday. The two-foot (60-cm) long albino monocled cobra was captured…

    Reuters37 mins ago
  • Hidden Security Cameras Are Shocking Surprise For Daughter

    DEAR ABBY: I'm a 19-year-old woman in college who still lives with my parents. I found out something several weeks ago that's bothering me, and I need advice badly. Years ago, after a robbery, my parents installed security cameras outside our house. I knew about them because they were visible. But…

    Dear Abby
  • View

    Creeping vines, abandoned village (20 photos)

    Just a handful of people still live in a village on Shengshan Island east of Shanghai that was once home to more than 2,000 fishermen. Every day hundreds of tourists visit Houtouwan, making their way on narrow footpaths past tumbledown houses overtaken by vegetation. The remote village, on one of…

    Yahoo News
  • Police Officer Involved in Deadly Cincinnati Shooting of Samuel DuBose Indicted for Murder, Dismissed from Force

    "I'm treating him like a murderer," prosecutor Joseph Deters said during a news conference when describing the warrant out for a police officer who killed Samuel DuBose, 43, earlier this month. Footage released today from a police officer's body cam lasts about 10 minutes and shows the shooting.…

    ABC News
  • Internet mauls dentist accused of illegal kill of popular lion

    Technically Incorrect: Walter Palmer, a dentist in Minnesota, has his Yelp entry attacked by those not fond of his allegedly illegal killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

    CNET
  • Goat's head nearly severed in brutal knife attack in Idaho

    A small goat was nearly decapitated and another goat died from a "heinous" knife attack on the animals in a fenced and locked site where they had been placed to graze on weeds in northern Idaho, a police spokeswoman said on Wednesday. A third goat is being treated for a knife wound in its back from…

    Reuters