Archaeologists have completed a month-long dig at the site of Richard III’s burial – the “site that keeps on giving”. A team from University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) made a much larger excavation at the site of the Grey Friars church in Leicester city centre than was possible during the first dig in August last year.
Among the findings this time were:
- A medieval stone coffin, which is likely to contain an important person – possibly a medieval knight or leading Franciscan. The coffin contained a second, lead coffin, which has been taken to the University for analysis
- Two other skeletons found underneath the church’s choir. These will now be examined by University of Leicester osteoarchaeologist Dr Jo Appleby
- A fragment of in-situ tile floor, near Richard III’s grave – the first piece of intact flooring to be found inside the church
- A new building to the south of the church with large buttressed walls – which could possibly be the remains of an earlier church or chapel, or another building connected with the friary
- A clearer picture of the church’s layout and how Richard III’s grave fits inside the church choir
- Various floor tiles, bits of pottery, metalwork and glass from the medieval church – and more remnants from Alderman Herrick’s garden, which was built on the site in the early 1600
The team made a large trench measuring 25 metres by 17 metres around the area between Leicester City Council’s Grey Friars car park and the neighboring car park of the former Alderman Newton School.
This uncovered the whole north east end of the church, including the choir area.
Mathew Morris, site director, said: “This site keeps on giving – first King Richard III, then an intact medieval stone coffin which, when opened, contained a largely intact lead coffin.
“Lifting the lid on the stone coffin was a first for all of us on site. None of the team had ever excavated an intact stone coffin before, let alone a lead coffin as well and for me it was as exciting as finding Richard III.
“All those artifacts we have found – the fantastic floor tiles, bits of pottery, metalwork, glass and human remains – have to be cleaned, cataloged and analysed.
“Hand drawn records have to be put together and turned into computerised plans, photographs sorted, notes checked.
“Then we have to starting making sense of it all, fitting all the evidence together until we have a new story about Grey Friars to tell.”
During the month, the team set up a public viewing platform – giving everyone the chance to come and watch as discoveries were made.
The team had a great response from the public. The viewing platform was packed every day, with visitors from all over the country and world.
Charlotte Barratt, the University’s Richard III Outreach Officer, met people who had travelled from as far as Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Lithuania and Italy to see the work in progress.
She said: “On the days I have helped out on the dig, I have been amazed at the distances people have travelled to see the dig.
“There have been some interesting questions posed as well, such as ‘how many arms did Richard III have?’ from one of our younger visitors.
“I began to notice that there were some regulars appearing on the platform as well, getting their daily update.”
Leading UK construction and infrastructure company Morgan Sindall is currently on the site constructing a King Richard III Visitor Centre to showcase some of the finds from the site. Morgan Sindall worked with the archaeological team to enable access to the site whilst building work continues.