When the remains of King Richard III of England were unearthed in a parking lot in Liecester, archaeologists were stunned that the royal skeleton was buried at that location. They were also stunned to see someone buried next to him.
Historians began digging the area in 2012, convinced that it was the final resting place for one of the most famous English Kings. Their suspicions were proven correct. After a series of DNA tests, they could determine, without a shadow of a doubt, that the skeleton they found very unceremoniously buried in the parking lot was that of Richard III.
But that was not the only surprise, archaeologists also found a coffin within a coffin. At first they believed it was perhaps a close male adviser to the monarch — who was killed in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. However, on Sunday, the scientists revealed this was not the case.
Mathew Morris, the lead archaeologist from the University of Leicester, was stunned to discover the remains belonged to a woman.
“A grave like this — very elaborate stone sarcophagus, lead inner casket buried in a very prominent position in the church, close to the high altar — you’ve got to think this person was important.”
Before Morris and his team realized that the skeleton buried next to Richard III’s remains were those of a woman, there were three likely candidates to have been resting at that location, all of whom were men. The scholars thought that either a medieval knight named Sir William de Moton of Peckleton, or two leaders of the English Grey Friars order, Peter Swynsfeld or William of Nottingham, were the residents of the tomb.
According to information released during the discovery process, the parking lot where the coffins containing the remains of Richard III were found, in Leicester is where a church, known as Grey Friars Friary, once stood. Over the centuries, the whereabouts of the friary’s remnants were forgotten, but it remained on record as the burial place of Richard III.
One thing is clear — this woman was very important in whatever capacity she served the King. The manner in which the archaeologists found her — in an inner lead coffin studded with a crucifix and the placement of the coffin in a prominent location — indicate that she was a prominent figure, News Channel 3 reports.
Morris and his team are not sure who Richard III’s companion is, and they are still hard at work in an effort to identify her. The archaeologists suspect she is called Emma, after reviewing record from that time.
“We know little about (Emma) and a lack of fundamental information, such as her age at death, what she did for a living, what she looked like or where in the church she was buried, coupled with no known descendants who can provide a DNA sample, make it impossible to say for certain (if the skeleton) is that of Emma.”
According to Morris, the mystery woman buried next to King Richard III’s remains may never be positively identified.
[Image via University of Leicester]