Relive the Past

Archaeologists found a strange mystery coffin near King Richard III’s grave

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Archaeologists found a strange lead coffin close to King Richard III’s grave beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England, enclosed the skeleton of an elderly woman.

The Featuring an inlaid crucifix, cautiously soldered on all sides but with feet sticking out of the bottom, the lead coffin was found inside a larger limestone sarcophagus. The finding came one year after the battle-scarred leftovers of the last Plantagenet king of England. The family ruled enormous areas of Europe were unearthed.

The lady in the lead casket might have died as late as 1400, although it’s much more likely she was obscured ahead of Richard III’s death at the Battle of Bosworth.

But her tomb was the first intact medieval stone coffin unearthed in the area, it wasn’t the only grave found at the site. Nine other burials were recognized under the car park, which was basically the site of Grey Friars Church, the medieval friary of the Franciscans known to have been Richard III’s final resting place.

They said she must have been of a high status, because her bones show signs of a lifetime of eating well. She’s also not the only woman buried on the grounds of Grey Friars. In fact, Richard III is the only man archaeologists have examined from the site so far. They four other graves, including the lead coffin, belonged to women the discovery of four female burials came as somewhat of a surprise. Archaeologists said.

Richard III ruled England from 1483 until he was killed on the battlefield in the Wars of the Roses in 1485. As his rival, Henry Tudor, ascended the throne, Richard received a quick burial at the Grey Friars monastery, which was demolished in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation.

Grey Friars’ accurate location was lost to history. In 2012, archaeologists with the University of Leicester discovered the remains of the monastery as well as Richard’s long-lost grave below a parking lot.

Much of the hype around the dig has centered on Richard, and his remains have already yielded a wealth of data on the king he died in a violent death; he ate quite well while on the throne; and he suffered from scoliosis. But archaeologists have also been studying whatever else they can find in the church.

Inside the friary’s choir where Richard III was found found two other women between ages 40 and 50 were found buried in wooden coffins Radiocarbon dating showed that they likely died between 1270 and 1400. One of the women had a hip problem that forced her to walk with a crutch, and the other women seems to have used her arms and legs frequently to lift heavy weights, suggesting a life of hard physical labor, the researchers said.

Most other monastic cemeteries in England have female-male burial ratios ranging from 1 female for every 3 males to 1 female for every 20 males, Morris said. The excavators don’t know exactly what to make of all the female burials at Grey Friars, and they were cautious about drawing any broad conclusions based on this small sample. The archaeologists recognized but didn’t examine five other burial pits on the site, and they thinks these burials were just a fraction of the total graves on the church grounds.

However, it’s believed  that archaeologists will unearth more of the graves at Grey Friars any time soon.

March 4th, 2015 at 7:17 am


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