Sunday, 1 September 2013

The story so far...

For those of you who may be unaware of the build-up to the amazing archaeological excavations in Leicester, here is a very basic chronological timeline based on what I have read or seen online.

The search for Richard III began in truth in 2004/5 with the work of historian Dr. John Ashdown-Hill and his tracing of a direct descendant of Richard III through the all female lineage of Richard's sister, Anne of York. Dr. Ashdown-Hill then had their DNA sequenced and published his findings in The Ricardian (the publication of the Richard III Society) of this mitochondrial DNA sequence. This would prove invaluable later on when excavations revealed the remains of a body with signs of battle trauma and a visible curvature of the spine, but no conclusive evidence that it was indeed Richard III without the help of DNA.

Fast forward to 2010. John had already attempted, encouraged by Philippa Langley, to persuade Channel 4's 'Time Team' to investigate the current burial site of Richard III, even sending to them a photo of the car park where we now know (about 7 years later) the grave is located! This was unsuccessful due to the time constraints associated with Time Team digs and they reluctantly turned it down. By now he had also investigated evidence to suggest that King Richard had indeed been buried in the Greyfriars Friary and not thrown into the River Soar, as history and folklore had previously had us believe. He had also published his book 'The Last Days of Richard III and the fate of his DNA'.

In the meantime, Philippa had pitched to the Leicester City Council about having a GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) search of the car park and they had agreed to come on board. This was followed by approaching the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) where Philippa met Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist.
The following year of 2011/early 2012 was a very frustrating time in the search where funding was not always available to continue. However, after much hard work and an international appeal for more funding, finally at the end of August 2012, the excavations in the council car park began. Interestingly enough, in the first trench excavated, they discovered the skeletal remains of who we now know to be King Richard III!
The rest, as they say, is history!

You can just see the edge of the grave site tent on the extreme left edge of the photo.
Obviously the whole of Leicester was buzzing with the news that they had indeed found the lost remains of King Richard III, the Last Plantagenet and English king killed in battle.

Then followed the now famous documentaries about The King in the Car Park, the temporary visitor centre set up in the Gulidhall next to the Cathedral and, of course, the fabulous facial reconstruction and likeness of Richard created by Caroline Wilkinson, professor of craniofacial identification at the University of Dundee, and her team.
I visited the Guildhall exhibition to view the finished facial reconstruction on display there, and next I will post about my visit and add the photographs I took there.

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