You probably know him for the line that Shakespeare gave him: “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”
But now you know King Richard III as a famous, ground breaking skeleton.
Archeologists think they have unearthed the bones of the long missing monarch under a parking lot in Leicester, England. That’s near where he perished in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 as his House of York fell to the Tudors who over the next century or so would procreate the likes of Henry VIII and the original Queen Elizabeth.
After that feisty encounter, Henry VII (Henry VIII’s father and the last person to win the British throne in battle) hauled the lifeless Richard into Leicester where he hung him naked and all that good stuff. Eventually, Richard was buried under a long-since demolished church in the same city - or so historians believe.
COME OUT COME OUT WHEREVER YOU ARE
The problem is, no one has ever found the guy. At least until now, the freshly uncovered bones suggest.
An excavation team from the University of Leicester has discovered skeletal remains consistent with battle wounds - a cleaved skull and a barbed iron arrowhead in the back according to reports by the BBC and by the Independent newspaper.
The skeleton also has a right shoulder higher than the left, which matches historical physical descriptions of the king. Many historians believe he had a severe curvature of the spine (which could lift a shoulder), but was not a hunchback as Shakespeare portrayed him in the play Richard III.
BRING ON THE DNA
“Archeology almost never finds named individuals - this is absolutely extraordinary,” professor Lin Foxhall, head of the university’s School of Archeology, says in the BBC account. “Although we are far from certain yet, it is already astonishing.”
Now it’s time for the heavy artillery of proof: DNA testing by the university against Richard’s descendants. “We have extracted teeth from the skull, so we have that and a femur, and we are optimistic we will get a good sample from those,” says the university’s Dr. Turi King (a surname suited to the occasion), head of the DNA analysis.
“It is extremely exciting and slightly nerve-wracking,” Dr. King says.
That’s probably about how Richard felt before the arrow found the gap in his vertebrae. The lab expects to complete testing in about 12 weeks, at which point it might be time to All Hail DNA.
Images: Richard III scanned from the book The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England by David Williamson. Battle of Bosworth Field painting by Philip James de Loutherbourg. Both via Wikimedia.
Correction: An earlier version of this story quoted Shakespeare’s Richard saying ‘my horse…” A sloppy typo. The correct version is, of course, “a horse…” The current Head of the Realm has excused me just this once for misquoting the Bard, for which I deeply apologize to the people of England.
Note to regular readers of my Energy blog on SmartPlanet: I’m still delivering regular ditties on everything from nuclear reactors to light bulbs. SmartPlanet has given me the green light to let rip on all sorts of other subjects. Those are now appearing in a SmartPlanet section called “The Bulletin,” as well as on the SmartPlanet home page. The update above about a rather punctured skeleton is my maiden voyage. Please climb aboard for a lively journey. Thanks. — MH
A few recent DNA markers from SmartPlanet. Find many more by entering “DNA” in the search box at the top of this page:
- ‘Dark matter’ DNA breakthrough could boost drug research
- What Neandertal DNA can teach about race, autism and more
- New research offers clues to Internet addiction
- A forensic test that predicts hair and eye color of suspects
- New York City gets roadside paternity tests