It was heralded as “one of the biggest archaeological finds in history,” according to The Leicester Mercury. The remains of Richard III that was discovered in a Greyfriars car park in February 2013 is now in question.
Professor Michael Hicks the head of history at the University of Winchester and Professor Martin Biddle director of the Winchester Research Unit and an archaeologist have questioned the validity of the remains.
Hicks is keen to debate that the remains could be possibly anyone who was in any of the War of the Roses Battles. Richard wad killed in the 1485 Battle of Bosworth. He contends that “lots of other people who suffered similar wounds could have been buried in the choir of the church where the bones were found,” speaking in a BBC History Magazine exclusive.
He continued: “I’m not saying that it’s not Richard – it’s perfectly conceivable that it is – but we are not in a position to say with any confidence that it’s him. Similarly, while the curved spine suggests the skeleton is Richard’s, the presence of scoliosis does not represent conclusive proof.”
Professor Biddle also voiced his concerns in the magazine interview: “We also know very little about the graves in the east end of the church. How many burials were made there in the three centuries of the friary’s existence, and indeed after the battle of Bosworth? Without further excavation there is no way of knowing, and hence no certainty about the burial that it has been claimed was that of Richard III.”
Phllipa Langley who funded the excavation also weighed in on Hicks’ assertions and defended the claim that indeed it is Richard III. “Taking a skeptical view is good for vigorous debate, but to say it cannot be claimed ‘with any confidence’ that this is Richard is quite puzzling. Given the totality of the evidence, it can surely be said with considerable confidence. Hicks says that there may have been ‘lots of people with similar wounds’: perhaps he could name one who fits the bill?”
The University of Leicester is negating the claims by both professors. A spokesman for the University told The Leicester Mercury: “The strength of the identification is that different kinds of evidence all point to the same result.”
The spokesperson added: “Professor Hicks is entitled to his views but we would challenge and counter them. Our forthcoming papers will demonstrate that many of his assumptions are incorrect.”
According to the University of Leicester online here is how the identification was made:
- The University of Leicester said the identification was made by combining different lines of evidence, including:
- The location of the grave matches the information provided by John Rous, a contemporary and one-time friend of Richard III’s.
- The skeleton – including the age of the man, general build, injuries inflicted around the time of death and the scoliosis.
- Radiocarbon dating places the date of the skeleton to the period of Richard III’s death.
- Preliminary isotope analysis suggests an individual with a high-quality diet.
- The nature of his burial /grave is also unusual for Leicester at the time, but fits with the known facts around Richard’s burial.
- Two direct female-line descendants of Richard’s sister, Anne, were found to share a rare mitochondrial DNA type with the remains.
For further in-depth analysis The University of Leicester has set up a page titled: “Is it Richard III?” It may be found by visiting this link: The University of Leicester.