Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Finding Richard III

Richard III was the last  King of England from the House of York. He began his reign in July, 1483.  He was killed just two years later in the Battle of Bosworth Field, ending the Wars of the Roses.  Richard was buried unceremoniously and was lost for five centuries.

Fast forward to 2012.  Though there was no clear information on the monarch's final resting place, some historical records indicated that Richard III might have been buried in the Cathedral in Leicester. But the cathedral was long gone. The place where it once stood was covered by a city parking lot and some municipal buildings.   Ground penetrating radar was used to identify a possible burial site beneath the parking lot. Incredibly, it was just below a parking spot identified with the letter 'R'.   The area was excavated. Human remains were found.  Moreover, the skeleton had a pronounced abnormal curvature of the spine.  Richard III allegedly suffered from this condition, which is called scoliosis.

King Richard III  (1453-1485)

Researchers extracted the remains, which clearly had evidence of death by violent trauma. Carbon dating showed that the bones could have come from the time of Richard III's death.  Genetic markers were used to link the remains with a high degree of probability to a living relative of Richard III. 

Finally, a replica of the skull was used to reconstruct a model  of how Richard III looked when he was King of England.  Remarkably, the modeled replica looks exactly like a painting the deposed King sat for shortly before his demise.  

The way Richard III became reconnected with the world is amazing, a triumph of dumb luck, coincidence, and dedicated forensic professionals using cutting edge scientific technology.

Here is a link to the Smithsonian Channel's excellent documentary on the return of Richard III.   http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/sc/web/series/1003102/secrets/3382633/richard-iii-revealed

Here is a link to a website run by the Richard III Society...  http://www.richardiii.net/2_4_0_riii_appearance.php

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