12:38pm Friday 23rd August 2013
By Mark Foster
THE archaeological discovery of the decade almost never happened, it has been revealed.
The bones of Richard III, who had links to North Yorkshire, came within inches of destruction before they were uncovered beneath a car-park in Leicester almost exactly a year ago.
And they may have been saved just because a toilet was built on the site back in Victorian times.
As part of a follow-up dig experts from the city’s university found a massive disturbance at the site of the old Grey Friars church where the medieval monarch’s remains were discovered.
During their second excavation the archaeologists found a large area of the church which had been completely destroyed.
The area – measuring over 5 metres by 10 metres – was just inches away from the king’s skull, meaning the remains of the last Plantagenet came very close to being lost for good.
The disturbance covers a far larger area than the remnants of a Victorian toilet which were also discovered near Richard’s grave during the first dig last year.
Site director Mathew Morris said: “It’s a miracle that Richard III’s skeleton was where it was. To the east, there is a massive disturbance that has removed all evidence of the church – which must have come within inches of his head.
“The disturbance is so big we didn’t have all of it in the excavation area. We uncovered an area more than 5 metres by 10 metres. We never got to the bottom – it is at least 1.8 metres deep.”
“We don’t know what caused it yet. Whatever it was, it came very close to removing Richard’s head.”
He added: “It’s entirely possible that because he was underneath the Victorian outhouses, he was protected from it.”
The team first started digging on the Grey Friars site on August 25 last year. They came across Richard’s remains on the very first day – but didn’t exhume the skeleton until later.
The revelation comes as a legal tussle continues over where the king should be re-interred.
Richard III grew up at Middleham Castle, in the Yorkshire Dales, and visited York several times during his 26-month reign
It is currently planned to bury him within Leicester Cathedral but descendants of the king, who died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, want York to be his final resting place.
They claim Richard wished to be buried in York and they have won the right to hold a judicial review.
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group