Monday, February 4th, 2013
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here at this ungodly hour to find out as soon as humanly possible whether the skeleton discovered underneath a Leicester parking lot can be conclusively identified by a combination of DNA analysis, radiocarbon dating and forensic analysis as the remains of King Richard III.
The University of Leicester is livetweeting the press conference. This Is Leicestershire will be posting live updates and pictures on this page. BBC News will have live video feed of the press conference but I don’t have that link yet. EDIT: Here it is! BBC Radio Leicester is carrying the press conference live at 5:00 AM EST and is already on site.
They’ve been broadcasting all their regular programming from the University of Leicester since 1:00 AM EST. Along with the usual weather and traffic updates, there have been live reports from the now-famous parking lot, excited speculation on what this discovery might mean for the city, a retrospective on how the dig came about and progressed, interviews with people involved in the project, capsule histories of the Wars of the Roses with dorky sound effects, “news broadcasts” from the 15th century about pigs being loose and a new passion play being staged at Jewry Wall Roman Ruins, plus lots of songs with “king” in the title. The correspondents and hosts are giddy from excitement and lack of sleep. It’s all so charmingly nerdy, especially when compared to our media outlets which only do pre-shows of sports events, award show red carpets and elections.
Meanwhile, the University of Leicester has released the first picture of the skull found under the parking lot. They’re still not saying whether this is the skull of Richard III, but at this point the hype is so huge if the results are inconclusive they are the cruelest of teases. Also, as soon as the press conference is over they’ll be launching a new website at http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/ which URL is a rather large hint. So here is the skull belonging to an unknown person who for want of a better name we’ll call Mr. X III:
4:21 – Each of the researchers will be explaining the results of their examinations and tests, with Dr. Turi King from UL’s Department of Genetics up last. The final conclusion will be announced by Richard Buckley, co-director of University of Leicester Archaeological Services and dig leader.
4:42 – There’s quite a bit of talk about how Richard III will be Leicester’s Robin Hood. “Nottingham, eat your heart out,” that sort of thing.
4:47 – The panel:
Richard Taylor (RST), Deputy Registrar at the University of Leicester
Richard Buckley (RB), Lead archaeologist
Dr. Jo Appleby (JA), Osteology expert
Professor Lin Foxhall (LF), History expert
Professor Kevin Schürer (KS), Genealogy expert
Dr. Turi King (TK), Genetics expert
4:51 – Experts at the lead table are beginning to take their seats.
5:01 – And we’re on! Professor Sir Robert Burgess starts with an introduction about the research process and how the experts have to lay it all out for us so we can understand the findings.
5:03 – RST: what we’re about to tell you is astonishing. Will be published in academic journals.
5:04 – RB: David Baldwin, a local historian wrote more than two decades ago that he thought the remains of Richard were still buried rather than having been thrown in the Soar.
5:07 – They found evidence of an articulated skeleton almost immediately, within hours of beginning the dig! They just covered it up and kept going because they expected to find multiple human burials and they were trying to find structural evidence of Greyfriars so they knew where they were.
They kept going until they got their bearings and then excavated the skeleton they had found in what they now realized was under the choir stalls.
5:12 First picture of in situ skeleton:
The barbed arrowhead they thought they had found resting between vertebrae is probably an earlier Roman nail.
Body still articulated, but the torso was twisted and the head propped up on top. The hands were crossed at the hip, possibly tied.
Two labs radiocarbon dated samples from rib bones. Found that the individual ate a high protein diet and that he died between 1455 and 1540. Richard III died at the Battle of Bosworth on August 22nd, 1485.
5:15 JA: Individual aged between late 20s and early 30s. Richard III was 32 when he died.
Without scoliosis, he would have been 5’8″ tall, but the curvature of the spine would have shortened him considerably, they can’t be sure how much. He had idiopathic adolescent-onset scoliosis which developed after the age of 10.
The complete spine with clearly visible curvature:
They found 10 wounds to the skeleton, 8 of them on the skull. The large slice on the back of the skull is consistent with a wound inflicted by a halberd. Smaller wounds on the skull shaved off pieces of the skull. They were not fatal and would not have knocked him out, but blood loss could have been considerable. Another wound in the cheek is consistent with a dagger stab wound, not fatal.
It’s unlikely that a person wearing a helmet could have suffered these wounds. The helmet may have been lost, or they may have been inflicted after death as humiliation wounds.
A blade wound to the pelvis, the result of a sword penetrating through the buttocks all the way to the bone.
5:24 – Jo Appelby’s conclusion is that the skeletal evidence as a whole provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III
5:26 – LF: reading contemporary sources on Richard’s looks. He’s described as slight but strong.
5:30 – KS: Three main goals: 1) identify group of living male relatives, 2) verify in documents the maternal line from Anne of York to Michael Ibsen and siblings, 3) identify if possible a second maternal line descent.
5:31 – 1) succeeded, finding three male descendants.
5:32 – 2) were able to find documentary evidence supporting the Anne of York – Ibsen maternal line.
5:33 – 3) succeeded again, finding a second maternal line which allows them to triangulate the mtDNA evidence with the DNA samples from the skeleton. This descendant wishes to remain anonymous.
5:34 – TK: THEY SUCCESSFULLY RETRIEVED ANCIENT DNA!!!
Too early to confirm the Y-chromosome DNA from the male line of descent.
The mtDNA analysis of both female lines matched each other AND THE SKELETON AND THE SKELETON AND THE SKELETON!
HOLY SHIT SLAM DUNK PROOF THEY FOUND FRIKKIN RICHARD III
5:38 – RB: Sound academic conclusion from cross-disciplinary research:
IT IS THE ACADEMIC CONCLUSION OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER THAT BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT THE SKELETON EXHUMED AT GREYFRIARS IN SEPTEMBER 2012 IS INDEED RICHARD III, LAST PLANTAGENET KING OF ENGLAND.
5:42 – Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester, thanks the team for their work. Thanks to Phillipa Langley and the Richard III Society without whose vision this would never have happened.
IT HAS BEEN AGREED BY ALL CONCERNED THAT THE REMAINS OF RICHARD III WILL BE REINTERRED IN LEICESTER CATHEDRAL.
February 8th, a new exhibit will open next to the cathedral telling the story of the search for Richard III.
New guest center at the Victorian school adjacent to the parking lot will be opened next year, coinciding with the re-interment.
5:47 – David Monteith, Canon Chancellor of Leicester Cathedral, says they will begin immediately to plan the reburial of King Richard III.
5:48 – Ralph Lee from Channel 4 promoting the documentary airing tonight at 9:00 GMT. Their cameras were there from the beginning. They recorded the discovery of the skeleton, the dig, the lab research. They filmed the DNA results last night. The last scene will be a reconstruction of the skull.
The documentary will not available on Channel 4′s website, at least not yet.
5:54 – Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society, driving force behind this project from 2009, says at the last minute funding was pulled. A worldwide call for donations stepped in to provide the necessary funds.
She sees this as a vindication of the real Richard III rather than the post-Bosworth smears.
In 2010, the Looking for Richard project commissioned the design of a tomb based on what he would have liked. The Cathedral has accepted the design.
Thanks everyone on the research team and on the Leicester Council who gave up their parking lot to the cause. Sarah Leavitt from Leicester City Council has been a champion of the project. Without her we would not be here today.
6:01 – Q&A from journalists now. The BBC video feed is closed so I’m back on the radio and they’ve stopped covering it for a quick headline newsflash. Annoying.
The body will be buried by the end of August 2014 as required by the Ministry of Justice.
Okay, the radio isn’t really covering this part, so I’m going to sign off. The University of Leicester’s Richard III website is now live. Also, the BBC has an excellent pictorial guide to the bones of the king.