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Life of Richard III confirmed by bone chemistry

The recently recovered remains of Richard III of England have confirmed the details of both his life and diet through chemical analysis. Dr. Angela Lamb, Isotope Geochemist at the University of Leicester, and the British Geological Survey revealed a change in diet from early childhood and the time frame that Richard III became the last Plantagenet king of England. The research was published in the Aug. 16, 2014, edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

A facial reconstruction of King Richard III is unveiled by the Richard III Society on February 5, 2013, in London, England.
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The researchers examined the chemical composition of teeth, a rib, and a femur from Richard III. The chemical composition of these bones is congruent with the known historical locations where Richard III lived and the documented movement during his life. The chemical composition of the bones also indicates known changes in Richard’s lifestyle and diet. Strontium, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, and lead are indicative of diet, locale, weather, and pollution.

The teeth indicate that Richard III had moved from Fotheringay Castle by the time he was seven. Teeth become unchanging when a person grows their adult teeth. The teeth indicate a change in location that included higher levels of rainfall than where Richard III was known to be born.

The femur is finished developing by about 15 years of age. Richard’s femur indicates that he moved back to eastern England by the time he was a young adult and had a diet consistent with the known diet of English aristocracy. The ribs renew themselves about every five years. Richard’s ribs show a change in diet while he was king. An increased consumption of birds and freshwater fish is consistent with the known diet of royalty at the time.

While vilified in life and by historians after his death at the Battle of Bosworth, Richard III recently discovered remains have produced some of the best insights into the life of British royalty ever known. Some of Richard’s reputation may be the work of historians in the pay of the winning side. Richard III lives on 531 years after his death as one of the most enlightening insights into social status in Medieval England.

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