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: Unique entry complex discovered at Herodian Hilltop Palace

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

Ancient clay seals may shed light on biblical era

Dec 20, 2014

Impressions from ancient clay seals found at a small site in Israel east of Gaza are signs of government in an area thought to be entirely rural during the 10th century B.C., says Mississippi State University archaeologist ...

Digging up the 'Spanish Vikings'

Dec 19, 2014

The fearsome reputation of the Vikings has made them the subject of countless exhibitions, books and films - however, surprisingly little is known about their more southerly exploits in Spain.

Short-necked Triassic marine reptile discovered in China

Dec 17, 2014

A new species of short-necked marine reptile from the Triassic period has been discovered in China, according to a study published December 17, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xiao-hong Chen f ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shakescene21
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

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.