Posts Tagged ‘Archaeology’



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News, Reinterment

The decision of the British High Court in the Judicial Review whether the granting of the exhumation licence for the remains which were later established to be those of Richard III was announced today at 10 am (7 pm in Australia).

The court found that “there are no public law grounds for the Court interfering with the decisions in question. In the result, therefore, the Claimant’s application for Judicial Review is dismissed.” This means Richard will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral, just a stone’s throw away from where his been for the last 500 years.

At the press conference in Leicester Cathedral it was announced that the reburial is expected for (the northern hemisphere) spring 2015.

You can read the full judgement here and an article from the BBC here.

Tags: , , ,



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News, Reinterment

The decision of the High Court on the Judicial Review whether the licence to exhume a skeleton in Leicester, which subsequently was found to be that of Richard III, was valid will be announced tomorrow (Friday, 23 May 2014) at 10 am.  10 am in the UK is 7 pm in Australia.

More information here and here.


Tags: , , ,



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News, News from Other Organizations

This is the title of a study day arranged by the Centre for Continuing Education at the University of Sydney on 26 October 2013.

The study day will be presented by Yvette Debergue, who is well-known to members and friends of the NSW branch from a variety of interesting talks.  Yvette is one of the centre’s leading presenters in the area of medieval history.  The day promises an in-depth look at the life of the last Plantagenet King.

Course content:

•    The King in the Car Park
•    The Wars of the Roses
•    King Richard III
•    A Twist in the Tale

Planned Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

1.     Develop an understanding of some of the social and familial reasons for the series of dynastic wars between the houses of York and Lancaster known as the Wars of The Roses.
2.     Evaluate and analyse the various sources for Richard III and his life and times.
3.     Recognise the reasons for the different depictions of Richard III throughout the ages in literature and history.
4.    Characterise the key factors in the discovery of the gravesite of Richard III and the positive identification of the body as that of the long dead, and much maligned, last Plantagenet King.

The part on the Greyfriars Dig will be presented by Dorothea of the NSW Branch of the Richard III Society, who has given talks on this topic as well as various others to a variety of organizations in the Sydney area.

To find out more about the study day, please have a look at the attached flyer provided by the Centre for Continuing Education.  20130830 The Truth About Richard III

The day will cost $145, but members of the Richard III Society, the Plantagenet Society and the Military History Society will receive a 10% discount on quoting the code YDS1013.

Tags: , , ,



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Greyfriars Dig, News

The following are the personal views of the author and do not reflect those of the NSW branch or the Richard III Society as a whole.

A while ago, I was asked by one of our branch members, where and when Richard would be re-interred, as she would like to be there.  Probably to her great disappointment, I had to tell her that I didn’t know.  The original plan was for the reburial to take place in Leicester in May next year, however, with all the controversy and legal challenges it would be better to wait a bit, before making actual travel arrangements.

And unfortunately the situation does not look any clearer so far.  There is the so-called ‘Plantagenet Alliance’, which portrays itself as a group of Richard’s descendents.  They would like Richard’s final resting place to be in York, whereas the exhumation licence granted last August states that any human remains should be reinterred in consecrated ground closest to the place where they were found, ie. Leicester Cathedral.  Therefore they have started to challenge the legality of the exhumation licence.  This week legal papers should be lodged with the (UK) High Court, seeking permission for a judicial review of the original licence to go ahead.  However, it is not sure whether the High Court will even accept the challenge and any decision is expected to take at least several weeks.

Whether the Plantagenet Alliance will have any success seems dubious.  As far as is known, there are no direct descendents of Richard III, his legitimate son had predeceased him and his illegitimate children died without issue, which leaves descendents of his brothers and sisters.  The group apparently consists of 15 of these distant relatives.  After 500 years, this is a surprisingly low number, as the University of Leicester estimates that “many tens of thousands of individuals alive today are descended in this way”.

The legal claim of the Plantagenet Alliance is based on the fact that they were not consulted before the exhumation licence was granted – and we have to remember that at that time it seemed rather unlikely that any human remains, let alone Richard’s, would be found.  They argue the licence was in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which grants the right to respect for private and family life.  After 500 years to claim “respect of family life” seems a bit strange, after all we are not talking about a dearly beloved uncle, who used to come round for tea.  The University of Leicester refutes this saying that the obligation to consult living relatives expires after 100 years.

I tried to find out a bit more about the Plantagenet Alliance.  It is a private limited company, with a relatively new website (their archives only go back to March 2013).  They are asking for donations to help fund the day-to-day running of their affairs as well as the legal campaign.

For my part, I rather donated to the Richard III Society’s appeal for funds for a tomb for Richard, than giving money for a business to go to court.

There certainly are valid arguments in favour of a re-interment in York rather than Leicester, however, these are not furthered by challenging the legality of the original licence.  If only all concerned could stop arguing their case with increasing animosity, which, while the media might love it, is very sad and in bad taste.

The Patron of the Richard III Society, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who shares his name and title with the medieval king before his accession to the throne, has pleaded that his remains “are treated with the utmost dignity”.  I am sure that his discussion partners Dr Philip Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society, and Philippa Langley, who had pushed tirelessly for the dig to take place, share his sentiments completely.  As does the University of Leicester, who pledges to “continue to work with our partners, the Richard III Society, Leicester Cathedral and Leicester City Council to ensure an appropriate and fitting re-interment for England’s last Plantagenet monarch in Leicester.”

HRH Richard, Duke of Gloucester, also attended a lunch with the Richard III Society, whose patron he has been for more than 30 years, at the Tower of London recently.


Kate Liptrot, ‘Richard III legal fight to start next week’, The Press (27 April 2013).

University of Leicester Press Office, ‘Plantagenet Alliance seeks judicial review – statement from University of Leicester’ (26 March 2013)

Duke Of Gloucester Meets With Richard III Society Over King’s ‘Dignity’’, Royal Central (2 March 2013).

Duke Of Gloucester Attends Richard III Society Dinner At Tower Of London’, Royal Central (30 April 2013)

Tags: , , , ,



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Greyfriars Dig, News

ArchaeologyThe University of Leicester has announced that the results of the test being carried out on the human remains found during the Greyfriars Dig will be published in the first week of February.

The tests are being concluded at present and will then be analysed.  A press conference by the University of Leicester has provisionally been scheduled for the first week of February to announce the conclusions of its investigations.

Though this is a bit later than we had maybe originally hoped, at least we now have an a bit more definite date.  The important thing is that the tests are done thoroughly and their results hold up to scrutiny in years to come.  Not that we end up with a situation like with the examination of the bones in Westminster Cathedral, claimed to be those of the Princes, where the results do not hold up to today’s scrutiny.

Tags: , , ,



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

While preparing a Ricardian Calendar entry about the death of Queen Eadgyth (on 26 January 946), I read again about all the tests which have been carried out on the remains of a woman found in 2008. Thinking of the tests being carried out on the skeleton found in Leicester, kindled my renewed interest in Eadgyth’s remains.

Eadgyth was the first wife of Otto I, king of the East Franks and later Holy Roman Emperor.  She was a daughter of Edward the Elder (870s?–924), king of the Anglo-Saxons.  She was born in Wessex, probably around 910, and married Otto in either 829 or 930.  After her death in 946, she was buried at Magdeburg Cathedral.

Her name is spelled in a number of different ways, one of them being Edith, and as I had an Aunt Edith (well, she was really my dad’s cousin), I will call her Edith in this post.

In late 2008 a lead sarcophagus was found in Magdeburg Cathedral with the inscription ‘Edit regine cineres hic sarcophagvs habet…’  (the salvaged remains of Queen Edith are in this sarcophagus…).  However, this sarcophagus and its inscription only date from 1510, 500 years after Edith’s death, and therefore some skepticism about the truth of this statement was indicated.   The tests have proven that they are most likely indeed those of the Anglo Saxon princess – and that without DNA analysis.

It has been established that the bones in the coffin all belong to the same person.  Unfortunately it is incomplete, the feet, parts of the hands and most of the skull, except for the upper jaw bone, are missing.

  • Morphological and metric analysis of the skeleton showed that it was a woman, who was at the time of her death between 30 and 40 years old (Edith was approx. 36) and who was 1.57m tall.
  • Stress markers reveal that she probably had a serious infectious disease when she was between 10 and 14 years of age (they might also be a result of malnutrition, but this is less likely in a princess).
  • The head of the femur shows that it belonged to a person who spent a lot of time on horseback, which is to be expected in the bones of a medieval noblewoman.
  • Strontium and oxygen isotope analysis show that the woman grew up in Wessex in the area of Winchester.  Up to the age of nine, she constantly moved around in Southern England, but then she remained stationary.  In 919, when Edith was around 9 years old, her mother was divorced and together with her daughter banished to a nunnery.
  • The analysis also revealed that this woman had eaten a high proportion of protein, especially fish, which would be expected of someone following Christian food rules.  The teeth show only little abrasion, which indicates a high proportion of soft food in her diet.
  • The sarcophagus was discovered in the foundations underneath the cenotaph attributed to Edith in the ambulatory of Magdeburg Cathedral.  Several components of an earlier burial were integrated.  The earliest is a simple sandstone sarcophagus, probably from the 10th century, which could very well be Edith’s original coffin.  This sarcophagus has been opened and closed several times, it is known that Edith’s remains were reburied several times.
  • Several fabric remnants were found with the bones, which could be dated by C14 analysis to between the 10th and 16th century, which coincides with the repeated reburials.  Some of the fabric has been dyed red with kermes, a highly valuable dye in the Middle Ages, and some of it is silk, indicating a royal funeral.
  • The lead of the sarcophagus comes from the Harz Mountains near Goslar.
  • The coffin also contained numerous insect remains, as well as oats.  The last are supposed to have been in the stuffing of a pillow, on which the dead had been laid.  There were also fragments of an evergreen juniper plant, which was grown as an ornamental and medicinal plant in medieval gardens.  All this indicates that the dead was treated with all honour when she was reburied in 1510.

All these tests confirm that this is as good as certain that these are indeed Edith’s remains.

Similar tests are being carried out on the remains, which could very well be Richard’s.  As we have seen,even without DNA analysis it is possible to match the results of scientific tests and the known biography of an individual.  Reading what can be found out, certainly heightened my anticipation for the test results of the Leicester remains.

If you can read German, here is a press release about Edith’s test results:

You can find out more about Edith in an earlier post about her.

Tags: , , ,



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Greyfriars Dig, News


A big ‘Thank You’ to Renate for finding these links for us!

As you might have guessed, I’m talking about the dig in Leicester for the remains of King Richard III.  It was certainly very carefully planned.  The experts had carefully worked out, where the most likely location of the former church of the Greyfriars and where the best spot to start digging would be.  However, there was also luck involved, as the most likely spot was under a carpark – much easier to dig up than if it had been under some building.

And although it was possible to bring the various parties together – City of Leicester, University of Leicester and Richard III Society, thanks to the relentless efforts of Philippa Langley – money and time was limited, while the area originally covered by the friary of the Greyfriars was huge.  As Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist of the dig, said at the beginning of the project:

I would have loved to have had the time and money to dig numerous trenches and excavate large sections of the area, but that’s the way it goes.  We had to put all our eggs in one basket and pick three spots which we thought would herald results.

And we know by now that they hit the jackpot and found a male skeleton, which looks as if it might be Richard’s (tests to confirm this are being carried out).

We had heard that they had found it quite soon after the start of the project.  However, I had not known until now how soon they actually found the remains.  On the first day in the first spot they started digging, site manager Mathew Morris found a leg, just after scooping away a bit of earth.  They followed the leg  – and found the complete skeleton of an adult male who shows signs of having died violently in a battle and having had scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine.  Circumstantial evidence which looks most promising.

The find certainly convinced Richard Buckley, who had been sceptical whether they would find anything before the dig.  Now he says:  “As soon as I walked across and saw the skeleton under excavation with my own eyes, that was good enough for me.  Since then, I’ve made no secret to the fact I think it’s him.”

It sounds too good to be true, but in this case it actually is true.  As Philippa Langley, a screenwriter, said in a radio interview:  “If I had written this in a screen play I think it would have been thrown at me Good planning, good luck or a bit of both and said ‘get real’”.

She was there when he – and she is sure it is him – was found.  The exciting find was also filmed by the crew who was on site for the Channel 4 documentary, due to be broadcast in early 2013.

Here is the article describing the actual find:

‘Review of 2012: A year when digging up a Leicester city centre car park sparked worldwide curiosity’, This is Leicestershire (29 Dec 2012).  URL: Date accessed:  30 Dec 2012

Or you might like to listen to a BBC radio programme, describing the whole process:

Tags: , , ,



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Greyfriars Dig, News

edited on 29 Dec 2012 (thank you, Renate)

The Richard III Society announced that it is funding the facial reconstruction of the skeleton uncovered during the dig in Leicester, which is at present undergoing all sorts of tests to establish with as much certainty as possible whether these are the remains of King Richard III.

Although these tests have not yet been concluded, those in the know at the Society seem to be fairly confident with what is known so far, if they are prepared to fund a facial reconstruction.  It will be based on a CT scan and be carried out by a leading expert in facial anthropology According to National Geographic this is Caroline Wilkinson of the University of Dundee, Scotland.

It is truly amazing what can be done these days, just remember when last year we were able to see the face of Ötzi, the Iceman, as he himself would have seen it if he had had a mirror 5300 years ago (see for example in this article from the BBC).

The reconstruction of Richard’s face will feature in the Channel 4 documentary which will be broadcast early in 2013 and after that it will be made widely available.

What makes this part of the examination of the remains particularly interesting is that there are no surviving portraits of Richard from his lifetime, nor any detailed description.  The only description we have is by Nicholas von Popplau, who met Richard in 1484:

three fingers taller than I [i.e. von Popplau], but a bit slimmer and not as thickset as I am, and much more lightly built; he has quite slender arms and thighs, and also a great heart.

Though von Popplau’s understanding of English genealogy leaves something to be desired –  he has both Edward IV and Henry VI as Richard’s full brothers – he should be able to give a correct description of a man in whose company he spent some time.

The earliest surviving portraits are those from the Royal Collection and the Society of Antiquaries.  They have been dated to the second decade of the 16th century and were probably based on portraits painted during the king’s lifetime.  X-ray has shown that the Royal Collection portrait has been altered at a later stage, to make one shoulder higher and to give him a meaner expression.  The Society of Antiquaries had also been “updated” at a later stage, but cleaning revealed a more genial expression.

The picture on the right is the portrait which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London.  It is suspected to be the copy of a copy of a lost original, and therefore of questionable accuracy.  We might be able to replace this picture at some stage.

Richard III Society chairman, Dr Phil Stone, explained that  the Society is “delighted to provide the financial support for the reconstruction; the revealing of the face will potentially be both an historic and poignant occasion for all who have an interest in this much misunderstood king.”

Philippa Langley, the driving force behind the Leicster dig, added, “To be at the point of seeing what could be the face of the last warrior King of England is an incredibly exciting prospect.”

A sentiment that we all share.

You can find the Press Release in the ‘What’s New’ section on the website of the Richard III Society.

The description of Richard III by Nicholas von Popplau’s description is quoted from:
Livia Visser-Fuchs, ‘He hardly touched his food, but talked with me all the time:  What Niclas von Popplau really wrote about Richard III’, The Ricardian, Vol.XI, No.145 (June 1999), pp.525-530

Tags: , , , ,



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Greyfriars Dig, News

Archaeologyedited (16 Dec 2012)

My Google Alert just alerted me to an article from the British Daily Mail, saying that the remains found in Leicester “DO belong to Richard III”.  Please note, I am aware that the Daily Mail might not be the best source, when it comes to accuracy in historical research.

They quote a source with “knowledge of the excavation” revealing that not all evidence was published at press conference in September and that the remains were shown for certain to be those of Richard III.

I have no doubt that not all available information was divulged at that press conference, but the Daily Mail’s assertion that the scientists were holding the news back to achieve greater publicity, sounds to me like too much of a journalist’s approach.  We all know that in the media industry it is vital to get the news out first, no matter whether they later on turn out to be inaccurate.

However, I would think that scientists first want to make absolutely sure that what they announce is actually true.  This point was also made clear by a spokesman of the University of Leicester saying that “everything we were willing to reveal and that we were sure of, we revealed (in September).”

Maybe that just sums up the difference between some journalists and scientists.

There is quite a variety of indications that the Daily Mail’s assertion might very well turn out to be true, and I most certainly hope so, but in the end, I would prefer to have scientific evidence rather than the say-so of some unnamed source with “knowledge of the excavation”.

In response to the Daily Mail story The University of Leicester issued a statement denying that they withheld any additional evidence at the press conference in September.  They stressed that the tests have not yet been completed, but so far they “are yet to find strong evidence to challenge our original hypothesis”.  The results will be published early in the 2013.

They also added that they will not benefit financially from the Channel 4 production, as they value the “complete academic independence in [their] judgement.”   Ricardians are often asked why we care about someone who has been dead for over 500 years.  We care because we care about justice, which can only be based on independent research.

You can find original article here:

Anthony Bond, ‘Human remains found in Leicester car park DO belong to Richard III… but scientists are holding back findings until Channel Four documentary is aired, claims insider’, Mail Online (15 Dec 2012).  URL:–scientists-holding-findings-Channel-Four-documentary-aired-claims-insider.html Date accessed:  15 Dec 2012

The response is here:

‘Search for King Richard III: Statement from the University of Leicester, 15 December 2012’, University of Leicester (15 Dec 2012).  URL: Date accessed:  16 Dec 2012

Tags: , , ,



   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Greyfriars Dig, News

ArchaeologyI might have mentioned before that Facebook for me has often been a good source of interesting information.  Today, thanks to Joan Szechtman, author of novels about Richard in This Time, I watched a Canadian broadcast about the dig in Leicester.  It is a very interesting programme and it is nice to hear Dr John Ashdown-Hill  talk about the subject that he has researched so extensively.  Enjoy!

Here’s a link:

Tags: , , ,