In Leicester, England, where once stood a friary is now a parking lot. And under that parking lot were the skeletal remains of a man that scientists can now positively identify as that of King Richard III. By analyzing the bone structure, injuries, bone chemical composition and finally DNA matching, the University of Leicester finally solved one big puzzle in British history.
Watch the video below for an explanation of the process of finding and confirming the remains:
Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones was matched to Michael Ibsen, a Canadian cabinetmaker and direct descendant of Richard III’s sister, Anne of York, and a second distant relative, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Experts say other evidence — including battle wounds and signs of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine — found during the search and the more than four months of tests since strongly support the DNA findings — and suggest that history’s view of the king as a hunchbacked villain may have to be rewritten.
The skeleton was discovered buried among the remains of what was once the city’s Greyfriars friary. After centuries of demolition and rebuilding work, the grave’s exact location had been lost to history, and there were even reports that the defeated monarch’s body had been dug up and thrown into a nearby river.
Richard III’s body was found in a roughly-hewn grave, which experts say was too small for the body, forcing it to be squeezed in to an unusual position.
Its feet had been lost at some point in the intervening five centuries, but the rest of the bones were in good condition, which archaeologists and historians say was incredibly lucky, given how close later building work came to them — brick foundations ran alongside part of the trench, within inches of the body.
What was initially thought to be a barbed arrowhead found among the dead king’s vertebrae turned out instead to be a Roman nail, disturbed from an earlier level of excavation. Archaeologists say their examination of the skeleton shows Richard met a violent death: They found evidence of 10 wounds — eight to the head and two to the body — which they believe were inflicted at or around the time of death.
“The skull was in good condition, although fragile, and was able to give us detailed information,” said bioarchaeologist Jo Appleby, who led the exhumation of the remains last year. The king had suffered two severe blows to the head, either of which would have been fatal, according to Appleby. The injuries suggest that he had lost his helmet in the course of his last bloody battle.
Appleby said there were also signs that Richard’s corpse was mistreated after his death, with evidence of several “humiliation injuries,” which fitted in with historical records of the body being displayed, naked, in Leicester before being laid to rest.
Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the project said the unusual position of the skeleton’s arms and hands suggested he may have been buried with his hands tied.
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