Richard III – the final act: Archaeologists release image of skull that might be that of a king

 

Scientists have offered a tantalising glimpse of the skull that may be that of King Richard III. The image of the skull was released today by the University of Leicester ahead of a "major announcement" detailing results of extensive tests this morning. Journalists from around the world are expected for the identification of remains found underneath Grey Friars Church in Leicester last year.

The university has studied the back of the skull where a bladed instrument is thought to have caused damage in battle. King Richard died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and was thought to have been buried where the skeleton was found.

Dr Jo Appleby, from the university's School of Archaeology and Ancient History, said the skull had been found in "good condition" and although fragile had been tested extensively. "We have built up a biological profile of its characteristics," she added.

The king's head? The evidence

bones

Radiocarbon dating will be able to confirm the time of death, but only to around 80 years of accuracy.

Mouth

Swabs taken from London furniture maker Michael Ibsen, whose late mother has been identified as a descendant of the king, could potentially be matched to DNA taken from the teeth and bones of the skull.

Spine

The skeleton found at Grey Friars Church was found to have "severe" scoliosis, a form of spinal curvature. It would have made the person's right shoulder appear "visibly higher" than the left which matches contemporary accounts of the King's appearance. A barbed arrowhead was found in the skeleton's spine which could also explain Richard III's death in battle.

Teeth

Dental plaque and worn teeth will give researchers a good idea of what the man ate and drank. It could also point to his social rank as diets. Wear on molars differ widely between rich and poor.

Face

The skeleton has been subjected to a barrage of tests including a computed tomography scan which will allow scientists to construct a three-dimensional image of the face with skin and flesh overlaid.

Skull

Scientists believe a implement could have cleaved part of the rear of the skull which shows signs of damage. The "battle trauma" could be explained by Richard III's death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

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