In a press conference held this morning, the researchers claimed that DNA testing has enabled them to identify the skeleton as Richard III “beyond reasonable doubt”. When the body was found last year, its curved spine and battle wounds were believed to be consistent with historical accounts of Richard III’s death in 1485. Add to that the fact the site was close to where his body was believed to have been buried, and anecdotal evidence was already in place.
But science, unsurprisingly, really came up trumps. First, high-resolution micro-CT medical imaging was used to analyse the skeleton. It showed that 10 wounds suffered by the body were received before death — suggesting it wasn’t a skeleton that had been tampered with — and confirmed evidence of scoliosis and battle-field trauma all “highly consistent” with Richard’s life and death.
Then, using radio carbon dating, the team were able to ascertain that the body dated back to the 15th century, and belonged to somebody who had been aged between late 20s and early 30s at death. Once again, that matched up with accounts of Richard III’s life. Finally, though, a DNA analysis was undertaken to confirm the findings. The researchers explain:
After careful excavation from the Greyfriars site, the skull, the lower jaw and one femur (thigh bone) from the skeleton were placed for safe-keeping in the clean room in the University’s Space Research Centre — normally used for the construction of spacecraft components. Due to their preservation, the teeth offered the best hope of intact mtDNA but the femur was kept as a back-up source.
Comparing DNA from the remains to that from four living male descendants of Richard III allowed the researchers to “triangulate” the samples — and finally confirm that the body belonged to the king, “beyond reasonable doubt”. Quite an impressive finding, considering the body was unearthed from a parking lot. [Leicester University via BBC]