Richard III's remains....



  • Thanks for that.

    So I was in the right ball park, sort of - that saying "we have a match" doesn't mean they are home and dry.

    It's interesting that you are saying this hasn't yet been resolved. Yet the Channel Four programme seemed to imply it had: that this was definitely the royal remains they were looking for.


  • OK I'm presuming you must have nodded off at certain points during the documentary Colin so I'll fill you in:

    1. Yes the osteologist initially thought the skull came from a different body. The reason for this was that the skeleton was not buried flat as is usually the case, the head was raised above the torso - it's why it got damaged while it was being dug out. This, and the fact that hands were in front of the body and not lying by the side suggested two things - first that it was an unusual and probably hasty burial and second that the hands might have been tied. Also people were not generally buried naked and without a shroud as this person was. The thing to remember is that people who dig up bones know what "normal" medieval burials look like because they all look the same. To them, anomalies like this stand out like a sore thumb. 

    2.The head was aligned with the body. And if it had belonged to someone else they would have found that other body. You can see from the photgraphs of the dig that you are looking at one body! I have seen multiple burials and they do not look anything like this. But even in a multiple burial you can make out which skull belongs to which body.

    3. Osteologists can tell whether an injury was caused in life, around the time of death or by damage after death because of the condition of the bone. The programme was at fault for not pointing out the full extent of the injuries but they were fully described in the press conference of you'd care to Google that: the injury to the top of the head, a cut mark in the lower jaw, the slice hacked off the back on the left side, a further injury at the base of the skull on the right side, the scooped injury to the top of the skull and two puncture wounds to the face as well as the pelvic injury. The injuries are consistent with weapons of the time. They are also consistent with a man who died in battle, whose body is protected by armour but who has lost his helmet.

    4. Think about base of the the pelvic bone and where that would be lying when you were a skeleton - it isn't damage that an archaeologist could inflict accidentally while digging or that could have come from earlier grave damage. If they damage bones, they admit it - just as the osteologist did with the skull. Contemporary accounts say that Richard was stripped naked and slung over a horse. We know this man was buried naked and he may have had his hands tied (which you would do if you were going to sling someone over a horse). In that position the sword through the buttock is highly likely.

    5. It had become generally accepted that the Tudors lied about Richard's deformity but, lo and behold, the skeleton shows signs of the very deformity that was supposed to be at least exaggeration and at most a fabrication.

    6. The skeleton was found exactly where he was expected to be found because this is where contemporary accounts say he was buried. He was also in front of the high altar. That's not where you'd bury an average person.

    7. The skeleton was shown to have had a high status diet consisting of frequent meals of fish. This is what affected the original carbon dating data and is a known anomaly - they didn't just make it up to make the dates fit . This was not a monk or anyone else connected with the monastery.

    8. The mitochondrial DNA matched. If this is not Richard III than it is some other member of his family - but as far as we know they are all accounted for. The skeleton was the right age and died at the right time. I don't know the mathematical probability but one of the DNA sequences is, apparently, relatively rare. 

    9. Has this been resolved 100%? No. 95% - yes. And that should be good enough for anyone. If this was evidence in a murder trial would you be letting the suspect go?


  • Ok I have just read all of that Scream, you havent answered the question that is sweeping the internet. Was this the 2nd shooter on the grassy knoll 

  • That's another debate goldbeetle image

    Honestly though Colin, the documentary was pretty poor in the way it presented the evidence. The press conference was far more convincing. The DNA profile was on display too so you could see what she was talking about. Have a look and see if it's still on the BBC news website.

  • Thanks for your lengthy comments, Screamapillar. You seem to know a lot about this. What is your job, that makes you know all this?

    1. "9. Has this been resolved 100%? No. 95% - yes. And that should be good enough for anyone. If this was evidence in a murder trial would you be letting the suspect go?"

    95% isn't good enough, no. Either it's definitely the remains of a King or we simply don't know that it is. If we don't know it is, that should be made clearer to everyone than it has been.

    The Today programme on Radio Four yesterday seemed to be under the illusion of the right body definitely having been found, which seems to be the illusion other people have of the situation as well. The documentary on Channel Four was less than frank about any doubts, simply ending with a triumphant 10-second segment, "We have a match, dah-dah!", without bothering to say that only meant "we have identified at best a relative of the living relative". The programme seemed to intend to deliberately mislead the public as to certainty or otherwise.

    If there is still a doubt, this should be made plainer to the general public. The pretence that these are definitely the remains should not be persisted in.

    The main problem I had with the documentary was that everyone involved seemed to have a vested interest in finding one particular outcome: that these were the remains of a king, not anyone else. When that is the situation, there is a tendency to try to make the findings fit with the result you want, consciously or subconsciously. For that reason, I didn't find any of the supposed "evidence" in the documentary helpful. The people involved were too interested in finding a particular outcome to appear to be objective enough. So the "evidence" gets regarded accordingly.

    2. Since a doubt was expressed about whether the skull and the rest of the remains were from the same body, it would do no harm to test the skull separately from the rest. Has this actually been done? Why can't it be done? It is bad science not to do it if a doubt was expressed. In the way of these things, that doubt will carry forward for centuries to come, when it could be put to rest now.

    3. The BBC TV News yesterday suggests the Richard III Society seem to be rushing forward hastily to deal with the remains and keep them local at Leicester Cathedral, as though they have a total right to do this. It seems to me that they have at best a "finder's title" and whatever additional title the owner of the site is willing to give them. The Queen owns all the land of England, and everything found in it is part of the land, so it seems to me that the remains actually belong to the Queen (i.e HRH Queen Elizabeth II), who will have a better legal title to the remains than the Richard III Society or the landowner with the paper title. Have the Richard III Society asked the Queen what she wants to direct be done with the remains, rather than treating it as their absolute right to dispose of them as they see fit? Finding something doesn't give an organisation the right to deal with it as it likes.

  • This is all about knowing how archaeologists work in a case where the subject is a thought to be a known person. This in itself is extremely rare. Looking at all the evidence, they will decide whether what they find supports or refutes what was known about the person in their lifetime. This works like the golden goal  - as soon a they find something that doesn't fit it's  game over. The Channel 4 programme was poorly made but it did, in essence, show that process. The process of "doubt" doesn't work in this case - either all the pieces of the jigsaw fit or they don't. It is a small thing, but look at the arrowhead that turned out to be a nail. It was potentially an interesting find, so much so it was mentioned in initial reports from the excavation but it was examined and dismissed.

    The skull could be tested separately but there is no reason to. It is you who have the doubt about it, not the osteologist, whose initial doubt was removed once she understood the position of the body. If it did not belong to the body it was found with it would be obvious when the skeleton was articulated.  By the same token, if they had dug up someone who was clearly a great hulking brute of a man there would have been immediate doubt as to the identity as Richard was known to have a light build. There is simply no way that the skull could have come from someone else. That someone would still have been there, lying either on top of or below Richard's skeleton. You cannot "lose"  one entire skeleton except the head and leave another whole body intact -  grave disturbance through earlier construction would be indiscriminate and both sets would be disturbed and damaged. Other than that, dead bodies do not move.

    I'm not quite sure that everyone did have a vested interest in finding that the remains where those of Richard III. Philippa Langley most definitely did,  but she had had to work very hard to persuade the team to do the dig. If anything, some of them probably would have been only to pleased to find out it wasn't him.

    I'm not really here to speculate on what the Richard III Society wants. They might feel they have soe sort of "claim" since they put up the money for the dig but legally thay don't and thay know they don't. I think the Diocese of Leicester are legally the custodians of the remains. 


  • What threw me the most was the guy from Horrible Histories narrating. I kept expecting a catchy song.
  • "The Queen owns all the land of England, and everything found in it is part of the land, so it seems to me that the remains actually belong to the Queen (i.e HRH Queen Elizabeth II), who will have a better legal title to the remains than the Richard III Society or the landowner with the paper title."

    Technically the Queen, in her legal capacity as "the Crown", owns the whole of the United Kingdom, and legally a "freehold estate" (which is the basis on which most properties are bought and sold in England), or an "estate in fee simple" which is the correct legal term, is not absolute ownership of the land but only a right to act as if you DO absolutely own it. "Simple" in this respect means "without restriction".

    I'm not sure whether this technical point as to ownership of the car park could be challenged by the Queen, even if she wanted to.


  • cougie wrote (see)
    What threw me the most was the guy from Horrible Histories narrating. I kept expecting a catchy song.

    "stupid death stupid death hope next time its not youuuuu"

  • I'm told "a follow-up programme from Channel 4 is now being prepared which will offer more scientific information."


  • So they're going to pick up all the bits they left on the cutting room floor and re-edit them? I suppose when they saw that more information came out in a half hour press conference they they put into an hour and a half of telly it must have been a bit embarrassing for them.

    And with luck they'll get Tony Robinson to narrate it this time.


  • Have a look around your loft and shed, apparently someone has found the head of king Henry IV of France in his attic, there must be bits of dead Monarchs everywhere
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