King Richard III dig team make discovery in Leicester car park search
Archaeologists believe they have made a breakthrough in their search for the 500-year-old remains of Richard III.
They think they have found a section of wall of the church where the defeated king was buried in 1485, after the Battle of Bosworth.
If they are proved correct, the discovery will be a key clue to the whereabouts of the king's bones.
Historical evidence suggests that after the battle, Richard III's stripped body was brought to Leicester and interred in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as Greyfriars.
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Last Friday, archaeologists began to dig in the city's Greyfriars car park, where it is believed the church once stood, in the hope of locating his remains.
The University of Leicester's Richard Buckley, who is leading the team, said yesterday: "We have found the Greyfriars and have uncovered tantalising clues as to the location of the church. It has gone about as well as we could hope for.
"We aim to dig a contingency trench over the weekend to see if these walls are the church. If this is the case, we can point to the area where Richard III might have been buried.
"The work we have done so far is revealing more about the archaeology of the Greyfriars area than we ever knew before.
"We have now uncovered a wall which is 2m thick and that denotes it is a seriously large building which could well be the church."
The team has sunk two, 30m-long 1.6m-deep trenches in the car park. Among their findings so far are medieval window tracery, glazed floor tile fragments, part of what might be the Greyfriars cloisters and the section of wall.
Mr Buckley, co-director of the University of Leicester archaeological services, said another trench would now be started on a neighbouring site, owned by developer William Davis, to see where the wall leads.
"We intend to sink the new trench on an east-west alignment to see if we can find the rest of the church," he said.
Mr Buckley said the dig had been so successful because the area had not been built on, being previously gardens and latterly a city council car park.
He said the finds uncovered so far denoted buildings of substance. The floor tiles were laid in the same diagonal pattern which had been found at other ancient church buildings in the city.
The dig has been made possible with funding of between £20,000 and £30,000 from the Richard III Society, the university and the city council.
University spokesman Richard Taylor said: "There has been negotiations between us the society for some time on developing the project. Things have come together and we had a two-week slot to carry out the work."
Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society, said: "The finds are extremely exciting. I'm thrilled at the progress that has been made. I am convinced we have found the church which housed the tomb of Richard III."
After the friary was demolished by Henry VIII in 1538, the site was taken over by the Herrick family, who used the remaining buildings for the basis of their home.
Ms Langley said: "Alderman Herrick, in 1612, knew precisely where Richard was buried and he was able to show visitors a handsome stone pillar marking the king's grave in his garden.
"Hopefully in the coming days the new trench will uncover more of the church and will shed new light on where exactly he was buried."
Councillor Piara Singh Clair, assistant city mayor for culture, said: "Richard III is a key figure in the region's history. This is an exciting opportunity to discover a missing piece of our historical jigsaw."
The search, which has attracted global media interest, finishes on Friday.
The University of Leicester is hoping to arrange open days at the site on Saturday and Sunday, September 8 and 9.
The work of the team is being filmed for a Channel 4 documentary, to be aired later this year.