Injuries

After excavation, the bones were carefully cleaned with water and soft brushes. This revealed more significant injuries on the skeleton, to add to those visible when the remains were first uncovered.

At least eleven injuries have been identified. We cannot determine in which order the injuries were received – all that we can say for certain is that all of them happened at around the time of death (peri-mortem), as there is no indication that any had started to heal. It is not possible to distinguish between skeletal injuries occurring just before death and those occurring just afterwards. Interpretation of the wounds relies on knowledge of medieval weapons and armour as well as on the bones themselves.

Although it has been possible to identify numerous wounds on the skeleton, there are various other ways to injure or kill someone which would leave no mark on the bones and it is likely that Richard suffered additional wounds that have left no trace.

1-3. Wounds to left rear of skull and top of skull

A sharp bladed weapon or weapons has clipped the top rear of the skull several times, shaving off the top layer of bone, leaving small circular depressions. Close examination reveals striations from the blade. Careful examination of the striations on wound 1 and wound 2 show that they share many similar characteristics and were, therefore, probably caused by the same weapon, perhaps a sword.

4. Small penetrating wound on the top of the skull

A sharp blow from a pointed weapon such as a rondel dagger on the crown of the head had enough force to split the inside of the skull, leaving two small flaps of bone pushed inwards.

5. Large hole underneath back of skull

The largest injury is this hole where part of the base of the skull has been completely sliced away. This could only have been caused by a large, very sharp blade wielded with some force. Whilst it is not possible to prove which kind of weapon caused this injury, it is consistent with a halberd or something similar. An injury like this would have been fatal.

6. Wound on left base of skull

A second fatal injury, visible in the same photograph, is a jagged hole in the lower left side of the skull. A sword or similar bladed weapon has cut through the bone. Close examination of the interior of the skull revealed a mark opposite this wound, showing that the blade penetrated to a depth of 10.5cm. There is also a corresponding cut mark on the atlas vertebrae.

7. Cut on lower jaw

A blade has cut the right side of the chin.

8. Hole in right cheek

This rectangular hole may have been caused by a dagger or similar implement piercing right through the cheek.

9. A tool mark on right mandible

This mark consists of a number of fine striations which appear to have been caused by a sharp weapon.

10. Cut on right tenth rib

This cut was caused by a sharp knife or dagger. During the battle the torso would have been protected by a solid armour backplate, so this may represent a post-mortem injury, perhaps delivered as a ‘punishment’ or occurring when the armour and clothing was stripped from the body.

11. Cut on inside of pelvis

This was produced by a sharp weapon such as a sword or dagger. The weapon was thrust from behind, entering the right buttock and penetrating right through the body. Such a blow would be difficult to inflict during battle, when the king would have been protected by his armour. This injury may also have been inflicted post-mortem, as an act of humiliation.

More information on Richard III’s injuries is freely available online in this peer-reviewed academic paper, Perimortem trauma in King Richard III: a skeletal analysis.

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