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]

Tudor House Museum reopens in Southampton

It’s the quintessential style of English architecture. Tudor buildings simply ooze a sense of history and charm.

The only problem is, they’re a real pain to keep in shape. That’s what the curators of the Tudor House and Garden in Southampton, England, found out during their nine-year restoration. The house, shown above, dates back to the 1490s and while it was obviously well built, five centuries had taken its toll. The house was beginning to shift, threatening to destabilize the whole structure.

Now the whole building has been given a makeover and equipped with state-of-the-art interactive displays to explain what daily life was like back then. The museum reopens today.

If Southampton is not on your itinerary, London has a good Tudor building as well. Prince Henry’s Room, shown to the left, is also being remodeled and will open sometime this year. Built in 1610, it’s a miracle this place is still around. It survived the Great Fire of 1666 and the Luftwaffe during World War Two. It makes for a nice picture if you’re passing along Fleet Street. The restoration crew let me take a peek inside and I can tell you the interior is as attractive as the exterior. We’ll be sure to cover it when it finally reopens.

[Photo of Southampton house courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Prince Henry’s Room courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Archaeology team tells Queen, “We want to dig up Henry VIII”

Two American archaeologists have asked the Queen of England for permission to dig up Henry VIII and use the latest techniques to reconstruct his face. Bioarchaeologist Catrina Whitley and anthropologist Kyra Kramer popped the question because they’re interested in seeing how accurate the royal portraits of the famous king really are. They also want to perform DNA tests to see if he suffered from a rare illness that might have driven him insane.

Facial reconstruction on skulls is nothing new and has been steadily improving over the years. It’s used in archaeology to study ancient people and by CSI teams to identify murder victims.

Drs. Whitley and Kramer would like to open Henry VIII’s grave in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle and measure his skull. They can then create an accurate image of what he looked like in real life.

While this is interesting and is sure to make lots of headlines, of more historic importance is their plan to analyze the king’s DNA to test for McLeod Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that can lead to schizophrenia. Historians have long wondered why an intelligent, level-headed leader became an erratic tyrant in later life. His wives must have wondered too.

No word yet from Queen Elizabeth on whether she’ll allow her predecessor to be exhumed.

For more on how archaeologists go about reconstructing a face from a skull, check out this video of a similar project that reconstructed the face of an ancient Greek girl.

[Photo courtesy Vincent Steenberg]