The archaeological team that discovered Richard III has completed its second dig at the Grey Friars site in Leicester. The month-long dig revealed more details about the medieval friary and uncovered other buried people.
The most interesting discovery last month was a stone coffin which contained a second, lead coffin. It is likely to hold an important person – possibly a medieval knight or a leader from the Grey Friar’s order. .
Two other skeletons were also found underneath the church’s choir, and the dig also learned about the church’s layout and how Richard III’s grave fits inside the church choir. The archaeologists also found evidence of a new building to the south of the church with large buttressed walls, which could possibly be the remains of an earlier church or chapel, or another building connected with the friary.
Site director Mathew Morris, of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, explained, “It was sad to be locking the gate for the last time. Our four weeks on site at Grey Friars are officially over. At the end of the final day, I said goodbye to the last visitors of the day and locked the gate to the viewing platform for the final time.
“The last archaeological feature was dug and recorded, we said goodbye to our two fantastic interns Claire and Emma, all our equipment and all the newly discovered artefacts were taken up to the University. Afterwards, we celebrated the conclusion of another successful project in proper archaeological style – we went to the pub for a well-deserved pint!”
“Aside from finding Richard III, uncovering the stone coffin has been the most memorable thing from the dig. The nicest part was getting to work with the whole team – and it was really good to have them all back for the second excavation.”
Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist on the Search for Richard III, added “In a way, this is the end of the journey for the Grey Friars site. It has been a special site to work on. I have always known about Grey Friars and its connection with Richard III, but I never thought for a minute I would get the chance to investigate it. Also, it’s helping us to tell the story of medieval Leicester.
“For me, the most memorable parts have been getting the best weather of the year, being amazed that the two initial trenches identified key friary buildings, thereby leading us to the church and above all, the ‘buzz’ from all the interest from the public and from the press.”
This second dig attracted visitors from all over the world. The archaeologists estimate around 200 people visited the public viewing platform each day – with between 4,000 and 6,000 visitors over the whole month.
Richard added, “Without exception, everyone seemed to be as excited as we were. When we had the first open day and I saw the queue of people going around the block, I felt so proud of our achievement and thrilled that at last, Leicester’s archaeology was receiving the attention it deserved.”
The site will soon be home to a King Richard III Visitor Centre that will showcase some of the finds from the archaeological digs.
Source: University of Leicester