Heavy machinery moves in as experts begin digging for Richard in Leicester car park
Mechanical diggers have scooped out tons of concrete and earth in a bid to find the 500-year-old bones of Richard III.
Archaeologists, led by a team from the University of Leicester, brought in machinery to create two long trenches in the Greyfriars car park, in New Street, Leicester, over the weekend.
After Richard was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, his body was brought to Leicester and buried in the church of the Franciscan friary known as Greyfriars.
Over time, the location of Greyfriars was lost – but experts think it could have stood on the site of what is now a city council-owned car park.
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The walls of the church would run west to east, so archaeologists spent the weekend digging trenches positioned in the opposite direction in a bid to expose them.
Richard Buckley, co-director of the university’s archaeology service, was on site early on Saturday.
“I definitely woke up with an extra spring in my step this morning,” he said. “We’re feeling pretty good.”
He said the diggers would scrape away one end of the trench until they reached the level the church would be at.
“We peel it back in period order, if you like, starting with what has been added most recently,” he said. “Until we get down in there and start working by hand, it’s difficult to say what we will find or how long it will take.”
If they discover the church, they will use their knowledge of the likely layout to choose the best places to dig.
Experts have traced an all-female line of descent from Richard III’s sister to a present- day Canadian family, making it possible to test the DNA of any bones found.
Scholars who have written books about Richard III were on site when digging started.
One, John Ashdown-Hill, author of The Last Days of Richard III, said: “I am very excited to be here.
“The last sentence of my book was ‘maybe one day the search for Richard III will begin’. And here we are, it has.”
Fellow author Annette Carson, who wrote Richard III, said: “Even if they do not immediately find the remains, it may offer us insight. In any case, the search has started – that is the main thing.”
Tomorrow: Is Richard really under this car park? The Mercury’s Matt Sibson investigates the other options.