Archaeologists Search For Lost Grave Of King Richard III

Archaeologists in Leicester, England, are looking for the grave of a king – in a parking lot.

The grave of Richard III is believed to be beneath the parking lot of a local government building, according to analysis by the University of Leicester.

Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the decisive battle of the War of the Roses. The victor was Henry Tudor, who became King Henry VII.

Richard was buried at the Franciscan friary of Greyfriars. Later development erased all trace of this church and the site was lost. Richard III is one of the few English kings for whom there is no recognized burial place. Now archaeologists have analyzed old maps and believe they have pinpointed roughly where the church was.

Heavy machinery moved in this weekend to break up the pavement, the Leicester Mercury reports. Once they’re done, the archaeologists will dig two trenches using more meticulous methods in the hope of hitting part of the church. The trenches will run from north to south, maximizing the chances of hitting the church. Medieval churches were traditionally built from east to west.

If they do find any bones, they’ll be able to tell if they belong to the slain king. Genealogists have discovered a direct descendant of Richard’s sister and will be able to use DNA analysis to check for a match.

The work should be finished in two weeks. On September 8-9 the excavation will have an open house for the public.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Rwanda looks to its history to get over its past

Sadly, when people think of Rwanda they tend to think only of the 1994 genocide, yet Rwanda has a rich history and heritage.

Now the government is developing its museums and historical sites to encourage cultural tourism. Sites like Nyanza Palace, shown here, will get special attention. Other attractions include dance troupes and even something called the Inyambo dance, performed by trained cows!

Rwanda has been inhabited for at least ten thousand years. Around the 15th century AD, several kingdoms cropped up with distinctive artistic styles. Several good Rwandan museums showcase this heritage.

Rwanda has become increasingly popular with adventure travelers and safari groups. It’s working to preserve its environment to help its rebounding population of mountain gorillas as well as other species.

This new move towards cultural and historical tourism appears to be emphasizing a common past in order to erase longstanding ethnic divisions. Hopefully this new project will get the international community to see more to Rwandan history than its tragic recent past.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Archaeologists lose Charlemagne’s tomb

After the fall of the Roman Empire, he was the first to reunite Western Europe. He ruled a vast kingdom that encompassed what is now France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and the Low Countries. The Pope even crowned him Emperor of the Romans. But while Charlemagne is famous around the world, very little is known about the real man.

There’s always been an air of mystery about Charlemagne, who ruled the Carolingian Empire from 800-814 AD. Historians aren’t sure where or when he was born, or who his siblings were. They can’t even agree on his native language.

Now it turns out he may never have been buried in his tomb.

Archaeologists studying the atrium of the Aachen Cathedral, Charlemagne’s traditional resting place, can’t find any evidence he was buried there. The oldest artifacts they found date to the 13th century. They weren’t expecting to find his bones, because a later ruler put them in the cathedral shrine, but they hoped to find some of his personal belongings or the original coffin to prove he’d been buried there.

This won’t stop Aachen cathedral from remaining popular for history junkies visiting Germany. The UNESCO World Heritage Site not only has Charlemagne’s bones, but also his throne and bragging rights for being the oldest cathedral in northern Europe. Once every seven years the priests bring out the cathedral’s collection of artifacts: the cloak of St. Mary, Christ’s swaddling clothes and loincloth, and the cloth that held the head of St. John the Baptist. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait until 2014 to see them again. Maybe by then archaeologists can tell us where Charlemagne was originally put to rest.

Happy Day of Kings!

In most Hispanic countries, the day the Three Wise Men visited Jesus (Epiphany) holds more significance than Christmas Day. On the night of January 5, children write to their favorite king (rather than to Santa) for what they want and leave their shoes outside, filled with straw for the Wise Men’s camels to eat; today is when they open their gifts.

Yesterday evening, the streets of Madrid’s center were packed with people waiting excitedly from 2pm to see the Parade of the Kings that began around 6pm. Today as families spend time together, there is a tradition of eating “Roscon of the Kings” which is a large loaf of bread in the shape of a king’s crown, coated with nuts and dried-fruit and filled with cream or chocolate. A gold coin is hidden inside, and it is believed that the person who gets it will have good luck throughout the year.

To reassert the importance of this day over December 25, recently in Madrid there was an anti-Santa campaign to spotlight the existing capitalism around the concept of Father Christmas. It highlighted his unacceptable behavior that included: doping his reindeer, racism, exploiting his elves, relations with the Romanian mafia and general susceptibility to commercialization. There was a demonstration outside the Finnish Embassy demanding the closure of Santa’s toy factory — a cause of contamination in the Scandinavian country.

Based in Madrid, a website has been created for the cause that includes an anti-Santa pro-Kings rap by campaigners dressed as the Three Kings which you can see here; it ends with a stage killing of Santa Claus.

King Tut: you just can’t get enough!

Well, I certainly can’t.

I don’t know why, but the whole King Tut deal was one of the very few things that stuck with me in history class.

There is something spooky yet exciting about pharaohs and mummies, and King Tut is the 3500-year old mummy of all mummies. Unbound in the 20th Century by an English dude who died shortly after (apparently from the ‘curse‘ of having the balls to open Tut’s tomb!), his story seems to be forever looming in mummy context.

This probably explains why 225,000 tickets have been pre-sold in London for a Tutankhamun Treasures exhibition that will be held there from November 15, 2007 – August 31, 2008. The exhibition will then move to Dallas for 7-months, sometime in October 2008.

King Tut began his rule in Egypt when he was nine, and died at 19 — how and why remains unclear, but his mummified body lay untouched until 1922. Ever since, forensic scientists have tried to reconstruct his face and body, but not without debate on it’s structure and real skin color. In this exhibition for the first time ever, his ‘true’ face will be revealed!

This is fascinating, and if I was in London I would definitely go, but what I fail to understand is that with over 8.6 million tourists visiting Egypt every year, why does Egypt let this treasure tomb tour the world?