LIC Blog

The Latest News from the Dig in Leicester



On Friday 31st August 2012 the University of Leicester applied to the Ministry of Justice under the 1857 Burials Act for permission to commence the exhumation of human remains found at the Grey Friars site in Leicester.

Exhumation commenced on Tuesday 4th September 2012 and has continued to this morning. The work wasconducted by Dr Turi King from the University’s department of Genetics and Dr Jo Appleby & Mathew Morris of our School of Archaeology & Ancient History.

We have exhumed one fully articulated skeleton and one set of disarticulated human remains. The disarticulated set of human remains was found in what is believed to be the Presbytery of the lost Church of the Grey Friars. These remains are female, and thus certainly not Richard III.

The articulated skeleton was found in what is believed to be the Choir of the church.

The articulated skeleton found in the Choir is of significant interest to us. Dr Jo Appleby has carried out a preliminary examination of the remains. There are five reasons for our interest:

  1. The remains are in good condition and appear to be of an adult male.

  2. The Choir is the area reported in the historical record as the burial place of King Richard III. John Rous, reports that Richard ”at last was buried in the choir of the Friars Minor at Leicester”.

  3. The skeleton, on initial examination, appears to have suffered significant peri-mortem trauma to the skull which appears consistent with (although not certainly caused by) an injury received in battle. A bladed implement appears to have cleaved part of the rear of the skull.

  4. A barbed metal arrowhead was found between vertebrae of the skeleton’s upper back.

  5. The skeleton found in the Choir area has spinal abnormalities. We believe the individual would have had severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder. This is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard’s appearance. The skeleton does not have kyphosis –a different form of spinal curvature. The skeleton was not a hunchback. There appears to be no evidence of a “withered arm”.

Both sets of remains are now at an undisclosed location where further analysis is being undertaken.

I need to be very frank with you. The University has always been clear that any remains would need to be subjected to rigorous laboratory and DNA analysis before we confirm the outcome of the search for Richard III. We are not saying today that we have found King Richard III. What we are saying is that the Search for Richard III has entered a new phase. Our focus is shifting from the archaeological excavation to laboratory analysis. This skeleton certainly has characteristics that warrant extensive further detailed examination.

Dr Jo Appleby is undertaking further work to examine the remains. Dr Turi King from our department of Genetics will lead the laboratory analysis. The results of this analysis are expected to take up to 12 weeks.

I should emphasise that all human remains found at the site are being treated in full accordance with the University of Leicester’s ethical policy for dealing with human remains

Clearly we are all very excited by these latest discoveries. We have said finding Richard was a long-shot. However it is a testament to the skill of the archaeological team led by Richard Buckley that such extensive progress has been made. We have all been witness to a powerful and historic story unfolding before our eyes. It is proper that the

University now subjects the findings to rigorous analysis so that the strong circumstantial evidence that has presented itself can be properly understood.

This is potentially a historic moment for the University and City of Leicester. I will now turn to colleagues for comments before moving to Q&A. University of Leicester Staff Available for Interview or Comments

Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist from the University’s School of Archaeology & Ancient History and co- Director of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services.

Dr Turi King, leading the DNA analysis and academic inthe University’s Department of Genetics

Professor Lin Foxhall, Head of the School of Archaeology & Ancient History at the University of Leicester 0116 252 2773/07740 540 264

Dr Sarah Knight, scholar of C16 & C17 English literature and academic in the University’s School of English Dr Mary Ann Lund, scholar of C16 & C17 English literature and academic in the University’s School of English

Deidre O’Sullivan, Lecturer in Archaeology in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History and expert on friary churches

Dr Jo Appleby, Lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology in the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Dr Helen Foxhall-Forbes, Honorary Research Associate in the University’s School of Historical Studies and Lecturer in Medieval History at Exeter University

Richard Taylor, Director of Corporate Affairs at the University 0116 252 5386

For background information please visit