On Monday 4th February 2013, researchers from the University of Leicester revealed that the remains of an adult male found beneath a car park in Leicester were consistent with the remains of King Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England.
King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth field, the last significant battle in the Wars of the Roses, on 22 August 1485. One theory was that his body had been interred at Greyfriars Church in Leicester. Over the centuries the location of the church was lost until its rediscovery late last year.
The remains of the adult male buried within the choir of the church showed significant trauma to the cranium, consistent with fatal injuries sustained in battle and curvature of the spine (scoliosis) consistent with historical descriptions of King Richard III.
Dr. Jo Appleby, project osteologist at the University of Leicester, and Bob Woosnam-Savage, Senior Curator of European Edged Weapons at the Royal Armouries, visited the Biological Anthropology Research Centre at the University of Bradford a few weeks ago to compare the wounds from the individual from Greyfriars with the skeletons that were found in a mass grave on the Towton battlefield in 1996. The Battle of Towton also took place during the Wars of the Roses, on the 29th March 1461, and is remembered as “the bloodiest battle on English soil”. The wounds sustained by those killed at Towton would have been consistent with the wounds King Richard would have suffered.
The best examples of cranial trauma from Towton are due to be scanned as part of the JISC-funded Digitised Diseases project, which will launch later in 2013.
University of Bradford safeguarding skeletons using 3D digitisation
24 November 11
The University of Bradford has secured almost £750K to safeguard skeletons from world-renowned collections based in Bradford and London.
The project, funded by the ‘Joint Information Systems Committee’ (JISC), will use 3D laser scanning, CT scans and high resolution photography together with new clinical descriptions and historical illustrations to create a web-accessible archive of photo-realistic digital 3D models of pathological type-specimens. The skeleton collections used in the project will be from internationally renowned collections that have restricted access and are therefore usually only seen by students and researchers.
The project will create a unique educational tool that will appeal to various disciplines including clinicians, medical trainees, medical historians, archaeologists, osteologists and palaeopathologists, as well as enriching the public understanding of anatomy and medical science.
Project leader Dr Andrew Wilson, lecturer in Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford, said: “The project will also play a crucial role in conserving a resource that is otherwise under threat from damage. Pathological specimens are often the most handled bones within skeletal collections and yet they are also the most fragile.
“Archaeological and historical skeletal collections are important because they offer the opportunity to observe pathologies in an era before effective therapy. The University of Bradford, Museum of London Archaeology and Royal College of Surgeons of England house internationally important skeletal collections and will each be providing pathological type-specimens for the project.”
Paola Marchionni, programme manager at JISC, said: “Digitised Diseases builds on the successful JISC-funded pilot digitization From Cemetery to Clinic, where the University of Bradford experimented with 3D digitisation of bones affected by leprosy. The team has now taken this approach further by setting up new partnerships, broadening the scope of the collections to include other chronic diseases and experimenting with innovative ways of delivering the models online.
“This project promises to have a wide-ranging impact by opening up access to material that has been so far the preserve of bona fide researchers. The opportunity for pathologists to look back in time at archaeological remains in order to make assertions about future illness will, we hope, prove invaluable.”
The project is a collaboration between Archaeological Sciences and the Centre for Visual Computing at the University of Bradford and project partners Museum of London Archaeology and the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The project began in November and will be completed in July 2013.
The funding follows on from the successful JISC-funded pilot project entitled “From Cemetery to Clinic” which saw the rapid digitisation of bone lesions caused by leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) from individuals excavated from the Medieval leprosarium of St James & St Mary Magdalene in Chichester in conjunction with Chichester District Museum.