Wednesday 5 September 2012 (continued)

  • Richard III’s skull was propped up awkwardly in the grave because it had been dug too short for him (A)
    Richard III’s skull was propped up awkwardly in the grave because it had been dug too short for him (A)

While Leon Hunt and his colleagues uncover the church floor underneath the playground, back in the car park, Jo Appleby and Mathew Morris find that the grave in Trench 1 is not a neat rectangle but a rough, lozenge-shaped hole with untidy sloping sides. It looks like it was dug quickly without great care.

Jo is surprised to suddenly uncover the skull, which is much higher in the grave than the rest of the skeleton, bent forward and to the left at an awkward angle to fit the body into a grave that is slightly too small. There are obvious battle wounds on the cranium. Jo and Mathew realise that, whatever else is found, this skeleton is going be both interesting and important.

In the afternoon, project manager Richard Buckley arrives with Deirdre O'Sullivan (an expert on urban friaries from the University's School of Archaeology and Ancient History) and an external friary specialist who confirm the choir/presbytery theory and identify the pieces of stone tracery as coming from an early 15th century perpendicular window. Richard realises that the skeleton on the other side of the wall – the first find on the very first day of the dig – is actually buried within the choir.

In the car park, Jo uncovers the arms and ribcage. The body has all the hallmarks of a hurried burial: there is no coffin, it has not been laid out carefully and the posture suggests it probably wasn’t even wrapped in a shroud.

Clearing away the earth from around the rib cage, Jo uncovers the base of the spine. Working along it, she finds a distinct bend to one side. As the rest of the spine is revealed, Jo and Mathew are somewhat shocked to see an unmistakable S-shape...

Mathew goes round to the playground to tell Richard that Jo has found something unexpected. Richard tells Mathew that he’s quite busy with his guests but Mathew assures him, as calmly as he can and mindful of the crowd of bystanders peering through the playground gates, that he really needs to come and see what Jo has found.

Some time later…

…Long after everyone else has gone home, Jo and Mathew continue to carefully remove the skeleton, bagging and labelling each bone. As the last bones are lifted, one final discovery is made: a piece of rusted iron, possibly part of a weapon, beneath two of the vertebrae. The skull, lower jaw and right femur, which will be used for DNA sampling, are wrapped in baking foil. Finally, with the sun setting, everything is loaded into the van, the gates are locked, and the mortal remains of Richard III bid farewell to the Church of the Grey Friars after 527 undisturbed years.

Unbelievably, Objective 5 achieved!

Project objectives

  1. Find the remains of the Franciscan friary.
  2. Identify clues to the position/orientation of the buildings.
  3. Within the friary, locate the church.
  4. Within the church, locate the choir.
  5. Within the choir, locate the mortal remains of Richard III.

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