Relying on historical records, University of Leicester archaeologists began excavating a city council parking lot in Leicester in August 2012 in search of the Grey Friars church. They soon found medieval window frames, glazed floor tiles and roof fragments, suggesting that they were on the right track.
Shortly thereafter, the team unearthed human remains, including both a female skeleton (possibly an early church founder) and a male skeleton with a spine curved by scoliosis. The male skeleton's skull was cleaved with a blade, and a barbed metal arrowhead was lodged among the vertebrae of the upper back.
An analysis of the skeleton, ongoing ever since, revealed many characteristics consistent with Richard III, including that the man died in his late 20s or 30s (Richard III supposedly died at age 32), and he had a slender, "almost female build," said Jo Appleby, the University of Leicester's osteology expert. (Science of Death: 10 Tales from the Crypt & Beyond)
The man would've had so-called idiopathic adolescent-onset scoliosis, meaning the cause is unclear though the individual would have developed the disorder after age 10; the curvature would've put pressure on the man's heart and lungs and could've caused pain, Appleby said. However, unlike historical records would suggest, the skeleton of Richard III showed no signs of a withered arm.
Appleby and her colleagues found and examined 10 wounds on the skeleton, including eight on the skull. None of the wounds could have been inflicted after the body was buried, though some of the wounds are consistent with being post-mortem, possibly as a way to further humiliate the king in 1485, Appleby said.
What does the discovery mean for the king's villainous reputation?
"It will be a whole new era for Richard III," Lynda Pidgeon of the Richard III Society told the Associated Press. "It's certainly going to spark a lot more interest. Hopefully people will have a more open mind toward Richard."
Where will they be re-interred? The University of Leicester has jurisdiction over the remains, and said today the Richard III skeleton would be buried under Leicester Cathedral.
Other interested parties had voiced their own opinions: The Richard III Foundation and the Society of Friends of Richard III, based in York, England, argue the remains should be reburied in York, since the king was fond of that city. The Richard III Society has remained officially neutral. Meanwhile, some online petitions have argued the reburial should take place at Westminster Abbey or Windsor Castle.
Jeanna Bryner of LiveScience.com also contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on LiveScience.com.
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