The team was digging in the foundations of the Franciscan friary of the Grey Friars, where Richard was buried in 1485 after being killed at the Battle of Bosworth. They were hoping to find other historic burials and especially wanted to complete the excavation of a stone sarcophagus that had been partially revealed in the initial excavation.
Once they cleared away the dirt and opened the coffin, they were shocked to find a lead coffin inside the stone one. This may be the first medieval burial of its kind and now scholars are puzzling over what it means, and how to open it without damaging the contents.
They know there’s a body inside because the bottom part has been damaged by time enough to reveal a pair of skeletal feet. Church records suggest it may be one of three people–two leaders of the English Grey Friars order named Peter Swynsfeld (died 1272) and William of Nottingham (died 1330). It may also be a knight named Sir William de Moton of Peckleton, who died between 1356 and 1362.
Richard III’s remains will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral early next year. A permanent exhibition about Richard III and the excavation will open in town at about the same time, hopefully with this new burial as part of the exhibit. The university has also launched a Richard III website.