Remains sent for Lab Analysis to see if they are King Richard Iii

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Archeologists have been working for three weeks in Leicester in the hopes of finding the final resting place of King Richard III. The selected site is a U.K. city-owned parking lot; it is believed that the 15th century king may be buried at this location.

The project, a collaboration of the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society, had been initiated in the hopes of finding the remains of King Richard III. Researchers had been steadily seeking answers to the aftermath of the king's fate and stumbled upon information that could shed some light, and the project was born.

No one knew exactly where the 15th century king was buried after he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field, during the War of the Roses in 1485. There are records that indicated the king had been buried at a Franciscan Friary known as "Greyfriars", however the location of that church had been "lost" over the centuries since it was demolished during the reign of King Henry VIII.

Over time, the "Greyfriars" location was sold, and resold. In the 18th century, it became a road and in the 20th century, a parking lot. When it was discovered that the parking lot may be the location of the former church, the search begun. At the time, experts had said there was an 80 percent certainty the Franciscan "Greyfriars", would be located.  Richard Buckley, University of Leicester archaeologist, had noted, finding the remains of King Richard III would be "a real long shot".

In late August, excavation of the parking lot began and it wasn't long before the dig yielded some results with evidence of the early church found. Then a remarkable new development occurred, which was announced by the University of Leicester on Sept. 12.

The University shared that the team had located the remains of two bodies.

“The University of Leicester applied to the Ministry of Justice under the 1857 Burials Act for permission to exhume human remains found at the Grey Friars site in Leicester. The work was conducted by Dr Turi King from the University’s Department of Genetics and Dr Jo Appleby and Mathew Morris of our School of Archaeology and Ancient History," said Richard Taylor, Director of Corporate Affairs at the University. “We have exhumed one fully articulated skeleton and one set of disarticulated human remains. The disarticulated set of human remains was found in what is believed to be the Presbytery of the lost Church of the Grey Friars. These remains are female, and thus certainly not Richard III."

It is believed the second set may actually be King Richard III's remains. The university emphasized at this time there is only "strong circumstantial evidence" and have not confirmed the remains are of King Richard III.   

Researchers identified several characteristics of the bones found which indicate they could be the king's, and are of interest to do further study. Experts believe the skeleton is a male, the body was found in an area believed to be consistent with historical records, and the bones show evidence of trauma, such as those which might have been gotten in battle. Additionally, the team found a "bladed implement" appears to have injured the skull.

Now the project moves on to the next phase. The remains have been transported to a secret location and laboratory analysis will now begin. Scientists have the DNA from a direct descendent of King Richard III's sister, Anne of York. Michael Ibsen, the 17th great grand-nephew of King Richard III, had previously agreed to DNA testing.

Are the bones located under the parking lot the king's remains? Experts say the laboratory analysis should take about three months.

If the remains are of the king, there will then be the determination of where a proper burial will be. Reportedly, the Palace is not interested in claiming the king to be buried at Westminster Abbey or Windsor Castle.

"We've been in touch with the Palace and they've said that they don't want Richard for Westminster Abbey or Windsor Castle," Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society, said. "Not because they don't want him, but they believe because he died in Leicester and was buried in Leicester for 500 years, he should stay in Leicester."

In 2010, the location the Bosworth Battle was positively identified after artifacts, including a tiny silver badge of a white boar, an emblem of Richard III, was found on the farm. This farm is located about a mile from where the battle was originally believed to have been fought.  

Since this time, interest in finding King Richard III's grave has increased and now that bones have been found, the Leicester project is entering the next phase. If the remains found under the U.K. parking lot are proven to be of King Richard III, this will have a significant impact on history.

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

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