Canadian’s DNA helps identify remains found under parking lot.
Remains unearthed last year from a parking lot in the city of Leicester have been confirmed to be those of England’s King Richard III. A Canadian carpenter, a descendant of the King, helped solve this 500-year-old mystery.
Researchers at the University of Leicester were able to confirm that the remains belonged to the King thanks to a DNA sample from Canadian Michael Ibsen, who is a seventeenth great-grand-nephew of Richard’s older sister, Anne of York. Ibsen claimed to be “stunned” to discover that he was related to the King.
Ibsen shares a rare strain of mitochondrial DNA with the skeleton. This, combined with the archaeological evidence, helped confirm the identification of the remains.
A team led by University of Leicester archaeologist Richard Buckley narrowed down a possible location of Richard III’s grave using a process called map regression analysis. The team used ground-penetrating radar to find the best place to start digging.
Excavation the parking lot began last August. Within a week, the team found remains of tiled floors, and soon after, they found human remains of an adult male who seemed to have died in battle. The body was found buried unceremoniously, without a coffin or shroud. The grave was also found to be clumsily cut, with sloping sides. It was also too short for the body, forcing the head forward.
Researchers did many scientific tests on the remains, including radiocarbon dating to determine age. It was found that the remains belonged to a man between his late twenties and late thirties, who had died between 1455 and 1540.
King Richard III reigned between 1483 and 1485, during the Wars of the Roses. During his reign, he saw many liberal reforms, including lifting restrictions on printing presses and books, as well as introducing the right to bail. His rule was often challenged, and the Army of Henry Tudor eventually defeated him, who then took the throne as King Henry VII.
After his death, historians writing under the victorious Tudors trashed his reputation. He was accused of many crimes, including the murder of the two sons of his elder brother, King Edward IV. Shakespeare also depicted him in an unfavourable light in his tragedy Richard III.
Records have shown that Richard was buried in a church in Leicester, but the church was dismantled under the rule of King Henry VII, and its location was eventually forgotten.
Examination by an osteologist found that the body shows ten injuries that were inflicted by weapons such as daggers, halberds, and swords. This is consistent with an account of Richard being struck down in battle, which claims that his helmet was knocked from his head. The osteologist also claimed that the remains had scars, including knife wounds to the buttocks, which are most likely “humiliation injuries” that occurred after death.
The remains also displayed a form of spinal curvature consistent with the signs of scoliosis. This is also consistent with accounts of Richard’s appearance.
The skull of the remains have been used to reconstruct the monarch’s face, using a technique that helps identify the victims of cold cases. The reconstruction is consistent with portraits done of the king.
Peter Soulsby, the mayor of Leicester, has also announced that the discovered monarch would be interred in the city’s cathedral, and a memorial service will be held.