Plans revealed to create Richard III genome (Update)

Feb 11, 2014
A painting of King Richard III in Leicester Cathedral on February 4, 2013

British scientists on Tuesday announced plans to create the complete genome sequence of infamous British king Richard III after his remains were found under a car park in 2012.

Geneticist Turi King will lead the £100,000 project ($164,000, 120,000 euros) to produce the first genome sequence from ancient DNA for a named historical figure, the project's co-funders the Wellcome Trust and the Leverhulme Trust said in a statement.

"It is an extremely rare occurrence that archaeologists are involved in the excavation of a known individual, let alone a king of England," said King.

"Sequencing the genome of Richard III is a hugely important project that will help to teach us not only about him, but ferment discussion about how our DNA informs our sense of identity, our past and our future," she added.

The year-long project, which will attempt to extract DNA from ground-up samples of Richard's bones, could reveal the controversial leader's hair and eye colour, and whether the scoliosis that deformed his spine was genetic.

Geneticist and co-funder Alec Jeffreys pitched the idea to King over dinner.

An undated handout picture released on February 4, 2013 from the University of Leicester shows the skeleton of king Richard III found at the Grey Friars Church excavation site

"We will never have this chance again, wherever he ends up being buried and whenever it ends up happening," King said. "We have this unique opportunity now and it seemed a shame not to do it."

The skeleton was found during an archaeological dig at a municipal car park in Leicester, central England, in August 2012.

DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the king's sister, while the skeleton had the twisted spine and battle injuries consistent with contemporary accounts, said researchers from the University of Leicester.

After his death at the Battle of Bosworth, near Leicester, Richard's body was buried by Franciscan friars, known as Greyfriars, in an unmarked grave. When their monastery was destroyed in the 1530s, all traces of him disappeared.

In "Richard III", Shakespeare described a villain who murdered his two young nephews to win the throne.

Enthusiasts say there is no evidence he killed the young boys, and hope the focus will now shift to the social reforms Richard introduced.

A court battle is ongoing to decide whether his remains should eventually be buried in the nearby Leicester Cathedral, or in York, his royal house.

Explore further: Archaeologists plan more digs at Richard III site

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Skull found in Britain 'could be King Richard III'

Feb 04, 2013

British archaeologists hunting for the lost remains of King Richard III have revealed the first image of a battle-scarred skull found at a car park ahead of what they said would be a "major announcement" ...

UK lawmakers line up to host Richard III's tomb

Oct 25, 2012

(AP)—British lawmakers are sparring over what may be left of Richard III. No one is certain yet that remains dug up last month at a Leicester parking lot are those of the monarch immortalized by William Shakespeare for ...

One foot from the grave

Oct 15, 2012

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester who uncovered a grave thought to contain the skeleton of King Richard III have revealed that the remains came within inches of being destroyed by Victorian ...

Scientists to reveal result of Richard III hunt

Feb 03, 2013

Has Britain's lost king been found? Later Monday, scientists will announce the results of tests conducted to determine whether a battle-scarred skeleton found under a municipal parking lot in central England ...

Recommended for you

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

Apr 14, 2014

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Serbia experts use heavy machinery to move mammoth

Apr 11, 2014

Serbian archaeologists on Friday used heavy machinery to move a female mammoth skeleton—believed to be one million years old—from an open mine pit where it was unearthed nearly five years ago.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2014
Being able to extract DNA from a dead English king is a remarkable stroke of fortune for historians. This never could have happened except for the fact that the body was lost and testing was necessary to establish that this skeleton was truly the remains of Richard.

The DNA genome may turn out to be the most historically-valuable aspect of the entire Richard II discovery. Although the Plantagenet dynasty has been the longest-running dynasty in English history, the entire non-bastard male line of the Plantagenets was extinct by 1499. There is a Duke who has papers showing that he is a Plantagent male-line descendant, but he apparently won't let his DNA be tested.

One matter this could settle is whether the skeletons of two children found in the Tower of London were Richard's nephews that he supposedly had murdered. If the skeletons turn out to be half-nephews instead of full-nephews, that would support the theory that Richard's brother, King Edward sprung from an adulturous fling

More news stories

Online reviews: When do negative opinions boost sales?

When purchasing items online, reading customer reviews is a convenient way to get a real-world account of other people's opinions of the product. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, negative review ...

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

( —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...