King Richard III’s burial site has yielded another mystery in the form of a coffin inside another coffin. Archaeologists opened a stone coffin at the Grey Friars site in Leicester last week and found something they had never seen before.
Rather than the skeletal remains they expected, archaeologists instead found a lead coffin nestled neatly inside. A hold toward the bottom revealed skeletal remains do reside inside.
The site of the former Grey Friars priory has already yielded several surprises, including the skeletal remains of King Richard III, reports The Los Angeles Times. His identity was confirmed in February.
Beyond that, researchers with the University of Leicester also uncovered the only known intact stone coffin in the area, leading to several guesses as to who resides inside.
The remains are believed to be either from a knight who died about 100 years before King Richard III, or one of two Grey Friars leaders. But before they can discover whose remains they have found, researchers need to find a good way to remove the lead coffin laying inside the stone one.
The Huffington Post notes that site director Matthew Morris released a statement about the unusual find, commenting:
“None of us in the team have ever seen a lead coffin within a stone coffin before. We will now need to work out how to open it safely, as we don’t want to damage the contents when we are opening the lid.”
King Richard III died in battle in 1485. While successor King Henry VII marked his grave with an alabaster stone monument, King Henry VIII had the friary dissolved and demolished in the 16th century. From then on, the King’s final resting place became a mystery.
University of Leicester tutor David Baldwin argued in 1986 that the Grey Friars monastery was located under the car park in Leicester. However, it took 25 years for the interest and money required to perform the excavation. Thankfully, he was correct.
King Richard III’s skeleton is set to be re-entombed in the Leicester Cathedral later this year. As for the coffin inside a coffin? Archaeologists are still working that one out.
[Image via LiveScience]