Richard III: Discovery and identification

Osteology - reading the bones

Remarkably, after over 500 years in the ground, Richard III’s skeleton is still almost complete. Archaeologists discovered that the feet and one lower leg bone (left fibula) were missing – these had been removed long after burial, perhaps when a Victorian outhouse was built on top of the grave – otherwise, apart from a few small hand bones and teeth, the skeleton was intact.

It is amazing that there was so little damage, as in places the 19th century brickwork was just 90mm above the skeleton. If the Victorian workmen had dug any deeper or wider, Richard III’s remains might have been severely damaged or even completely destroyed.

Once the skeleton was safely removed from the ground, archaeologists were able to examine the grave in great detail, learning much about how Richard III was buried in 1485.

Back at the University of Leicester, specialists analyse the skeleton. As well as determining the age and sex of the individual, the spinal abnormalities are identified and the wounds characterised.

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