It’s him: skeleton found in car park is that of Richard III – live coverage

Richard III's portrait compared with a photograph of the skull found in Leicester: Portrait source: Wikimedia Commons. Skull image courtesy of Leicester University.
Richard III’s portrait compared with a photograph of the skull found in Leicester: Portrait source: Wikimedia Commons. Skull image courtesy of Leicester University.

DNA evidence from the skeleton matches with that from Michael Ibsen, a Canadian who is a direct descendent of Richard’s sister Anne of York.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “It’s him: skeleton found in car park is that of Richard III – live coverage” was written by Paul Owen, for guardian.co.uk on Monday 4th February 2013 11.43 UTC

Summary

Here is a summary of what we’ve learned this morning.

Tests have established that a skeleton found under a car park in Leicester is that of Richard III, king of England from 1483-85. Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the project at the University of Leicester, said that his team had proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that the bones were those of the last Plantagenet king.

• DNA evidence from the skeleton matches with that from Michael Ibsen, a Canadian who is a direct descendent of Richard’s sister Anne of York. In addition, evidence of battle wounds on the skeleton, and features of the remains such as their curved spine, provide a “highly convincing case” for this being Richard, Leicester’s Dr Jo Appleby said.

His death was probably caused by one of two injuries to the base of the skull, both inflicted with a bladed weapon, Appleby said.

Richard’s body will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral, probably early next year. A temporary exhibition will open there on 8 February, followed by a permanent visitors’ centre telling the story of Richard’s life and death. A £10,000 donation for a new tomb for the monarch has already been received by the Richard III Society.

Louice Tapper Jansson sends these amusing tweets:

Broadcaster Dan Snow is also weighing in on Twitter:

I missed one rather graphic detail from Dr Jo Appleby’s discussion of the wounds found on Richard’s body. Maev Kennedy summarises it succintly:

Cambridge academic and TV star Mary Beard is uncomfortable with the way the University of Leicester hyped up the discovery of Richard’s remains.

A £10,000 donation for a new tomb for Richard has already been received by the Richard III Society, Maev Kennedy reports.

Sir Peter Soulsby, the mayor of Leicester, confirms that the king’s body will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.

He says he has written to the acting dean of the cathedral formally entrusting the remains to the cathedral.

From 8 February there will be a temporary exhibition there, and a permanent visitors’ centre will be opening next year, telling the story of Richard’s life and death. He hopes that will be open at a time to coincide with the reinterment, which will take place early next year, he thought.

Updated

Richard Taylor returns to say that reinterment will be in Leicester Cathedral.

Updated

Whoops and cheers follow the announcement.

It’s Richard III

Richard Buckley returns to announce the team’s conclusion.

He says that it is their academic view that “beyond reasonable doubt the individual exhumed at Grey Friars on September 12th is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England”.

Updated

Geneticist Dr Turi King says both the individuals who helped with the DNA analysis are “the last of their line” – so in a generation this would not have been possible.

DNA analysis of the remains was difficult, but they did manage to get a sample of DNA to work with.

The DNA confirms this is a male.

She shows part of Michael Ibsen’s DNA sequence, which verified the family tree Schürer set out.

There is a DNA match from the descendents of Richard III and the skeleton at Grey Friars.

The DNA evidence points to these being the remains of Richard III, she says.

Prof Lin Foxhall speaks next, saying we may now have to re-evaluate what we know about Richard III’s life.

Prof Kevin Schürer then says the team can confirm the lineage from Anne of York to Michael Ibsen is good.

Skeletal evidence provides ‘highly convincing case’ that this is Richard III

Dr Jo Appleby has said the evidence from the skeleton provides a “highly convincing case” for this being Richard III.

It looks like it’s him.

Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case for this being Richard III, Appleby says in conclusion.

Updated

There is also a small, rectangular injury on the cheekbone, consistent with a dagger.

And there is a cut mark on the lower jaw, caused by a bladed weapon, Appleby says.

It is hard to understand how any of these injuries could have taken place if he was wearing a helmet, she says. He may have lost the helmet at this time, or some of the injuries could have been caused straight after death.

Appleby discusses the wounds. Ten have been identified, eight on the skull. They all occurred at the time of death or shortly after.

None overlapped so it was not possible to say for certain the order in which they were received, she says.

There was a small, penetrating wound on the top of the head. This came from a direct blow from a weapon, and would not have been fatal.

A large wound to the base of the skull came from a slice cut off the skull by a bladed weapon. A smaller injury on the base of the skull was also caused by a bladed weapon. Both of these injuries would have caused almost instant loss of consciousness and death would have followed shortly afterwards.

There are also three more shallow wounds on the skull.

Dr Jo Appleby speaks next.

She says the team had to answer whether the skeleton fitted with the known facts about Richard, and examine the spinal curvature and the wounds.

Appleby says the skull was struck during excavation but this did not cause major damage. There is also damage to the bones from their being buried for 500 years.

It was an adult male but with an unusually slender, feminine build. That’s consistent with descriptions of Richard.

There is no indication he had a withered arm, however.

He was aged in his late 20s to late 30s. That fits with Richard’s age when he died.

The skeleton was not born with scoliosis, she says.

Buckley says the skeleton can be dated from 1455-1540.

Buckley shows an image of the grave and an image of the skeleton. He says the hands may have been tied at the time of burial.

Buckley calls the body in this burial site “skeleton one”.

Skeleton one exhibited certain “interesting characteristics”: curvature of the spine and trauma to the head.

Buckley says a third trench was opened in an adjacent car park. This revealed a pair of walls.

So now they were confident the burial found in the first trench lay within the church.

Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist, speaks next.

He says no information about the Grey Friars buildings have survived.

The precinct is now crossed by two streets and extensively built over – so finding it would always be a long shot, he says.

Buckley says he chose to investigate two trenches in the social services car park there.

The team discovered evidence of a burial in the first trench almost immediately.

In the second trench they seemed to find parts of the church.

Taylor says that following the dissolution of the monasteries, the trail goes cold. Popular legend has it that an angry mob threw his remains in the river.

He invites the team to present their evidence.

Updated

Richard Taylor, deputy registrar of the University of Leicester, says what they are about to say is “truly astonishing”.

In August 1485, Richard III faced Henry Tudor at Bosworth and was killed. His body was brought back to Leicester. His body was buried without pomp or ceremony in the church of the Grey Friars.

Professor Sir Robert Burgess, vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester, is speaking.

Milking the moment a bit, Burgess says only the researchers can tell us whether the remains are those of Richard III.

The press conference is just beginning now.

Professor Sarah Hainsworth of the engineering department has been working on microtomography imaging of the skeleton, Maev reports. It has two injuries to the base of the skull, one to the crown (not that crown), and more to the ribs and pelvis. “He had literally been through the wars,” Maev notes.

A bit of a clue courtesy of Maev Kennedy in Leicester: Sarah Levitt, head of Leicester museums, says they’ll be opening a display at the Guildhall in a week – and a whole new visitor centre in the old Alderman Newton school, right by the excavation site, next year.

Maev Kennedy has just been speaking to Phil Stone, the chair of the Richard III Society, which funded the search for his remains. Stone calls this “a very exciting day”. The thrill of the chase has more than doubled membership to 3,000, he says. They have nothing to do with the Tudors, “but we do meet the Stuarts every now and then, at Fotheringay and such”.

The University of Leicester has provided TritonE recorder players to soothe journalists’ savage breasts, Maev Kennedy reports. They have also rerecorded all Radio Leicester’s jingles and idents in Plantagenet style for today.

The hall is filling up fast, says Maev, who sends this picture of Bob Savage of the Royal Armouries, whose expertise on medieval war injuries could be crucial.

Updated

Good morning. At around 10am today, researchers are due to announce whether a skeleton found underneath a car park in Leicester is that of Richard III. We’ll have live coverage here as they reveal whether the bones really are the remains of the last Plantagenet king of England, who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

We’ll be hearing from my colleague Maev Kennedy, who is in Leicester and wrote this excellent summary of where we stand for today’s Guardian.

The University of Leicester, which has been leading the project, is refusing to speculate on what the result will be. But archaeologists, historians and local tourism officials are all hoping for confirmation that Richard’s long-lost remains have been found. The university has released an image of the skull, which archaeologist Jo Appleby said was “in good condition, although fragile”.

Since the discovery, researchers have been conducting scientific tests on the remains, including radiocarbon dating to determine their age. They have also compared its DNA with samples taken from Michael Ibsen, a Canadian believed to be a direct descendant of Richard’s sister Anne.

Lynda Pidgeon of the Richard III Society told the Associated Press:

It will be a whole new era for Richard III. It’s certainly going to spark a lot more interest. Hopefully people will have a more open mind toward Richard … With Henry VIII you’ve got six wives, sex and things going on. It’s a bit hard to compete with that when you are a bit more straight-laced, as Richard was.

Richard III ruled England from 1483-85, during the Wars of the Roses, and was defeated at Bosworth Field by the army of Henry Tudor, who took the throne as Henry VII. He was the last of the Plantagenet dynasty to rule, and was immortalised in one of Shakespeare’s history plays.

The location of his body has been unknown for centuries. As Maev writes: “Although stories say his body was dumped in the river, many believe the body was claimed by the Franciscans and buried hastily but in a position of honour near the high altar of their church – exactly where the remains were found.”

Last September archaeologists looking for Richard dug up the skeleton of an adult male who appeared to have died in battle. He appears to have a battle wound in the skull and a barber metal arrowhead was found between vertebrae in his upper back. The skeleton also displays signs of curvature of the spine, which is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard III’s appearance. (Shakespeare added the famous hunchback.)

Stay tuned for live coverage of the announcement from 10am.

Updated

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