Is this the skull of Richard III?

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The skull of the skeleton found at the Grey Friars excavation in Leicester, potentially that of King Richard III. Image credit: University of Leicester
The skull of the skeleton found at the Grey Friars excavation in Leicester, potentially that of King Richard III. Image credit: University of Leicester

Is this the skull of Richard III? Today (4 February)  the University of Leicester, with Channel 4, unveiled the world’s first photograph of the human remains found beneath a car park in Leicester city centre, interred in what was once the Grey Friars church.

Later this morning archaeologists will announce the results of months of exhaustive tests to determine whether the bones are those of England’s last Medieval monarch.

Preliminary analysis after the remains were found in September, suggested that the man had suffered traumatic wounds to his head, compatible with battle injuries. While conservation was ongoing, it appeared that a  bladed weapon had cleaved away a sizable chunk of its base, while a smaller puncture wound was visible on top of the skull.

This second injury appears comparatively insignificant from the outside, but internally the force of the blow pushed in two flaps of bone, leaving them dangling. This wound was not caused by a blade. Instead something had punched a small squared or round hole in the skull. While the weapon that caused this is still uncertain, a Welsh tradition has it that Richard was felled by a poleaxe blow from the mercenary Wyllyam Gardynyr. Both head wounds would have been fatal.              

Since then,  Dr Jo Appleby, Lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology in the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, who led the exhumation of the remains, has carried out a much more detailed examination of the skull.

She said: ‘The skull was in good condition, although fragile, and was able to give us detailed information about this individual. It has been CT scanned at high resolution in order to allow us to investigate interesting features in as much detail as possible.

‘In order to determine whether this individual is Richard III we have built up a biological profile of its characteristics. We have also carefully examined the skeleton for traces of a violent death.’

The remains were found at the place where Richard III is believed to have been buried after his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and evidence of what was believed to be scoliosis, together with possible  battle trauma, could indicate that these are the bones of the missing Plantagenet.

We will be posting more information as it becomes available – watch this space! You can follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/currentarchaeologymag)  or Twitter (@currentarchaeo) for the latest details.

You can read more about the University of Leicester’s excavation at Greyfriars here, and click here to read more about how archaeologists have worked to confirm the man’s identity.

Follow the links for more information on his distinctive curved spine and battle injuries.


  1. If it is King Richard the third, shouldn’t he be buried in Westminster Abbey where lies the burial place of Queen Anne Neville and in the Henry VII chapel lies the tomb of Henry VII and in Elizabeth Chapel a urn is supposed to contain the bones of the Princess in Vaughan executed in 1483.

  2. If he died on the battlefield, with his armour on how is it that his hands were tied when he was naked?

    Where did Richard really die?

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