How to identify a skeleton The Search for King Richard III Educational Resource

```The Search for King Richard III
Educational Resource
How to identify a
skeleton
In 2012, when archaeologists were searching
for the remains of King Richard III, they found a skeleton inside the
Greyfriars church. They called it Skeleton 1, but who was it?
 During the excavation, the archaeologists collected evidence about where the person was buried in the
church and how the person was treated after they died.
 When Skeleton 1 was taken back to the lab, the archaeologists could tell a lot about the person from their
bones:
 They could determine if the person was male or female by studying the pelvis, base of the skull, the
o Men usually have a more prominent brow ridge and jaw.
o Women have a wider pelvis.

They used formulas to determine the person’s height based on the length of the leg and arm bones.

By studying the mineral content in the bones they could tell what sort of diet the person had.
o Different levels of carbon in the bone show whether they ate mostly fish or meat.
o Different levels of nitrogen in the bone show whether they ate mostly meat or
vegetables.

They were able to approximate how old the person was when they died by examining the joints,
bones and teeth.

By radiocarbon dating the bones, they could work out when the person died.
o All living organisms take in an isotope of carbon called Carbon 14 until they die, then the
amount of Carbon14 in the tissue begins to decrease over time. Scientists are able to
count the amount of Carbon14 left in the skeleton and work out how long ago this
happened – the more found, the younger the sample.

By looking for signs of disease and trauma on the bones, they could tell how the person died.
 Putting all the evidence together, the archaeologists were able to work out who Skeleton 1 was.
Look at the archaeological evidence and the evidence on the skeleton.


What does the evidence tell you about Skeleton 1?
Can you work out which person is the most likely match for the evidence?
The Search for King Richard III
Educational Resource
Skeleton 1: Meet some of the people buried in the church
I am Brother William Giles. I am the last
warden of the friary. We built our church in
the year 1230 and we buried people in it for
over 300 years until King Henry VIII
demolished it in 1538. We buried important
people at the eastern end of the church; you
can meet some of them below.
I am Master Peter Swynfield.
I am an important friar, in charge of
all the Franciscan friars in England.
I am Ellen Lavener.
I am not rich, but I gave the poor
friars some land in Leicester so
they could build a bigger friary.
I am Sir William Moton.
I am a local knight. I gave
the friars a lot of money to
pray for me after I died.
We even buried King Richard III.
He was the last Plantagenet king
of England and was killed at the
Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
The Search for King Richard III
Educational Resource
By piecing together the evidence, archaeologists could tell in which part of the church Skeleton 1 was buried. Can you?
Archaeologists can tell a lot about how a person was treated after they were dead from the way the body was buried? What does the evidence suggest to you?
The grave is too short for the person in it.
Skeleton 1
The grave appears to be messily dug.
The skeleton is twisted
in the grave.
There is no evidence for a coffin or shroud.
The hands may be tied together.
The feet are missing because a
cellar had been dug through them
after this person was buried.
The Search for King Richard III
Educational Resource
Skelton 1: The skeletal evidence
tells us that this person died
between 1450 and 1540.
Both arms are normal. There is
no evidence for a withered arm.
This person suffered from Scoliosis.
This caused the spine to curve
sideways. They were not hunchbacked.
The curved spine meant that the
right shoulder may have been
higher than the left shoulder.
By measuring one of the leg
bones we can work out that
this person would have
been 5ft 8in tall (1.72m) tall.
The teeth tell us that this
person was between 27
and 37 years of age.
The pelvis shows that this
person is male.
The skull has been sliced
many times by a sharp
weapon. This suggests that
the person died in battle.
The feet are missing.
Both legs are the same. There is
no evidence for a limp.
The bones are very slender. This
person would have been slim.
Analysis of the minerals in the
bone tells us that this person
ate a lot of fish and meat.
This person appeared to be healthy.
There is no evidence of disease.
The Search for King Richard III
Educational Resource
Problem One: Who is Skeleton 1?
1
Brother Peter Swynfeld
Brother Peter was male
He was 5ft 6in tall
He ate a lot of fish and meat
He died in 1272
He was aged 72 when he died
He died of old age
He was buried in the presbytery
Supporting evidence?
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
2
Ellen Lavener
Ellen was female
She was 5ft 3in tall
She did not eat a lot of fish or meat
She died in 1349
She was aged 37 when she died
She died of the plague
She was buried in the choir
Supporting evidence?
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
3
Sir William Moton
Sir William was male
He was 5ft 7in tall
He did not eat a lot of fish but ate a lot of meat
He died in 1362
He was aged 60 when he died
He died from a fall which fractured his skull
He was buried in the presbytery
Supporting evidence?
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
4
King Richard III
Richard III was male
He was 5ft 8in tall
He ate a lot of fish and meat
He died in 1485
He was aged 32 when he died
He died in battle
He was buried in the choir
Supporting evidence?
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
5
Brother William Giles
Brother William was male
He was 5ft 8in tall
He ate a lot of fish but not a lot of meat
He died in 1538
He was aged 35 when he died
We do not know how he died
He was not buried in the friary
Supporting evidence?
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
Who is Skeleton 1?
The Search for King Richard III
Educational Resource
Problem Two: Who is right?
Since I died, people have written many things
about me; what I looked like and what I did
during my life. Now that my skeleton has
been found, can you tell if they were right or
wrong? Or does the archaeological evidence
Historic Fact
I was born at Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire
I had slender arms and legs.
My right shoulder was higher than my left.
I was buried in the choir of the Greyfriars church.
I was hunchbacked.
My left shoulder was higher than my right.
I murdered my nephews, the Princes in the Tower.
My body was dug up when the church was demolished in 1538.
My body was thrown in the river in 1538.
I was buried hastily.
I was an evil tyrant.
I was killed in battle in 1485.
True
False
Not
Sure
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