Monday, February 04, 2013

Richard III news round-up

[I decided to cross post this from my Tudorhistory blog since the science is just as important as the history!]

As expected, the University of Leicester announced this morning that they have confirmed that the remains found last summer are indeed those of Richard III. (You can see my initial round-up from September here.)

Here is the re-launched site about the project from the university: The search for Richard III - completed.

You will find photos and information about all of the lines of inquiry that went into the identification there. The video of the press conference is supposed to be uploaded at some point as well. You can find the presentations by the speakers at the press conference here. They also mentioned on their twitter account that all of the research will be submitted to academic journals for peer review. (I'll stay out of the discussion of public and media interest vs. academic procedure, since I honestly don't know what the proper answer is. I've seen in the sciences that "press conference before peer review" can have unfortunate results, but I've also seen conclusions validated once papers are published.)

Here are some other informative links:

* Leicester car park skeleton 'is that of Richard III'

* Richard III discovery in pictures

* Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are king's

* Richard III: The twisted bones that reveal a king

* Richard III's remains found in Leicester (nice diagram of the site on this one)

I've also seen some remarks about the DNA testing not being the "proof" that it is being presented as, and that is technically correct. There is a chance that it is coincidence that the Michael Ibsen and Richard III have the same mitochondrial DNA because of its nature (if it is rare or common will affect the significance of the match). They were also able to track down another maternal line relative who consented to testing (but wished to remain anonymous) and the mtDNA matched between Ibsen and the anonymous subject as well as matching to the skeleton. We'll know more once the academic paper comes out but in the text of the presentation the scientist is quoted as saying "The analysis showed that these two individuals shared the same relatively rare mitochondrial DNA sequence." I would also point out that the DNA tests did not exclude positive identification of Richard III (either because the skeleton wasn't Richard's or from mistakes in the genealogy) so that is helpful information as well. There is also on-going work with testing the Y-chromosome against known male-only lines, but this is more difficult and may be inconclusive for a variety of reasons.

To me, the osteological evidence, the historical and archaeological evidence, and the fact that the DNA and carbon dating results do not rule it out, the identification of the bones as those of Richard III does seem to be the correct conclusion. But keep in mind my degree is in astronomy, not archaeology! Still, all-in-all, it was an exciting day for me as a fan of both science and history.