THE site of a grave believed to be that of King Richard III is due to remain open to enable further investigation and interpretation to take place.
Human remains provisionally identified as those of the last Plantagenet king, who was killed in battle in 1485, were discovered in one of three trenches opened by a team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester earlier this month.
The battle-scarred skeleton, which also had significant spinal abnormalities, is currently undergoing DNA testing to help establish whether investigators really have discovered the long-lost grave of the king, within the grounds of the former Grey Friars church.
The section of trench in which the bones were discovered will now be kept open and covered by a protective tent, marking the historically-important site until a further decision on how best to present the site is made.
Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “We are committed to developing plans so that visitors in future will be able to understand and interpret the site and appreciate its importance in Leicester’s history, so preserving and presenting the grave site properly is a key part of that.”
Some of the other trenches containing the most fragile medieval evidence, such as areas where mortar from the original tiled cloister floor is still visible, will be infilled to preserve them and protect them from exposure to wet and cold weather.
The work is being carried out by Leicester City Council, working alongside archaeologists from the University of Leicester, and will take place over the coming days.
Archaeologists will first line the most vulnerable areas with a protective geotextile membrane, and then backfill the trenches with the same material which was originally dug out.
The site will then be handed over to Leicester City Council’s highways team, which will carefully complete the infilling and resurfacing work.
The shift of focus to look now at the future of the dig site follows six very successful public open days which have attracted thousands of visitors over the last two weeks.
Infilling of the trenches had been delayed to allow visitors to see for themselves the ongoing work, which has revealed for the first time the location of the long-lost medieval Grey Friars church, where Richard III is believed to have been buried after his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
The City Mayor added: “Archaeologists from the University of Leicester have revealed to us glimpses of a lost medieval world within these remarkable excavations, and it is vitally important that the evidence at this site is preserved for future investigations.
“With winter weather upon us already, we are working with the university to fill in the trenches and protect what they’ve discovered so far.
“The work will be done in a way that will both enable them to be re-opened for further investigations if need be, and also to ensure what we’ve already uncovered is preserved for future generations.”
The University of Leicester’s co-director of archaeological services, Richard Buckley, added: “Most of the site needs to be backfilled as soon as possible to ensure that fragile remains, such as the mortar bedding for tiled floors, can be protected from erosion by autumn and winter weather.
“We will be covering up the most vulnerable areas with geotextile membrane, with some hand backfilling, before handing over to Leicester City Highways who will carefully complete the trench infill and reinstatement process.”