The third trench being cleaned by archaeologists after machining (Credit – University of Leicester)
The Head of the department that spearheaded the archaeological search for Richard III has called for restraint in discussions about the outcomes of the search and where the remains ought to be buried.
Debate about the potential burial site has raged in the media and in Parliament ever since the University of Leicester discovered human remains in the Choir of the Grey Friars- the reputed burial place of Richard III. The remains were said to provide sufficiently strong circumstantial evidence to warrant further investigation by the University.
The find has led to discussions about whether the remains- should they prove to be Richard- ought be laid to rest in Westminster, Leicester, York – or Worksop.
John Mann MP, (Bassetlaw) asked Sir Tony Baldry the Church Estates Commissioner for the remains of Richard III to be buried in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. A further question from Jon Ashworth MP, (Leicester South) asked for the remains to be buried in Leicester Cathedral.
Professor Lin Foxhall, Head of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester, said: “From the very outset of our discovery we said, quite categorically, that we are not saying we have definitely found Richard III. Much research and investigation needs to be done if we are to have a chance of identifying this individual more securely, and the identification may never be one hundred per cent secure.
“I think it is premature to speculate on the outcome of that investigation – and people should certainly not jump to any conclusions. As archaeologists we go where the evidence takes us, but we have not yet proven that these remains are Richard III, because we do not yet have the evidence to do so. I am worried that people will lose sight of how cautious we were when we announced our findings – it is part of the rigour of academic research that we thoroughly examine all the evidence before reaching a conclusion.
“It is important for the integrity of our work to conduct our research unencumbered by speculation linked to a particular outcome. For that reason I think it is important we reiterate what we said right from the outset:
‘“The University has always been clear that any remains would need to be subjected to rigorous laboratory analysis before we confirm the outcome of the search for Richard III.
“We are not saying that we have found King Richard III. What we are saying is that the search for Richard III has entered a new phase. Our focus is shifting from the archaeological excavation to laboratory analysis. This skeleton certainly has characteristics that warrant extensive further detailed examination.”