Digging for Richard III: The Search for the Lost King

( 1 )

Overview

"As gripping as any detective fiction. Proof that one doesn't need to be fascinated with Richard III to be enthralled by the story of his body's discovery." —Publisher's Weekly
In August 2012 a search began, and on February 4, 2013, a team from Leicester University delivered its verdict to a mesmerized press room and to the world: they had found the remains of Richard III, whose legacy was perhaps the most contested of all British monarchs.
Prior to this major discovery, there ...
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Digging for Richard III: The Search for the Lost King

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Overview

"As gripping as any detective fiction. Proof that one doesn't need to be fascinated with Richard III to be enthralled by the story of his body's discovery." —Publisher's Weekly
In August 2012 a search began, and on February 4, 2013, a team from Leicester University delivered its verdict to a mesmerized press room and to the world: they had found the remains of Richard III, whose legacy was perhaps the most contested of all British monarchs.
Prior to this major discovery, there had been little new information about Richard III for some time. With no new evidence to fuel it, the debate over what kind of man he might have been seemed to have stalled. Thus the story of the discovery of Richard III is a story of the value of archaeology—careful analysis of physical evidence backed up by the latest science and technology—and how it can change our understanding of history. Firsthand accounts from the team that found the king, along with photographs from the author’s own archives and an expanded epilogue incorporating new DNA evidence, augment this compelling detective story as the evidence is uncovered.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
07/07/2014
Though we know how the story ends, British Archaeology editor Pitts’s step-by-step account of the improbable discovery of the skeleton of the last Plantagenet king of England, Richard III, is as gripping as any detective fiction. Richard died at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 and was vilified by Tudor writers Thomas More and William Shakespeare in the 16th century. Still, he had his fervent supporters over the years, Philippa Langley among them. After much research, she came to believe that Richard was buried at the site of Greyfriars friary—now a parking lot in Leicester—and spearheaded the campaign for excavation. Pitts introduces the major players, each of whom worked toward their own ends. Archaeologist Richard Buckley and his colleagues had little interest in a dead king but had long wanted to dig up Greyfriars. British Channel 4 was excited about a potential high-concept show. The Leicester city council saw the potential for a tourist bonanza. Only Langley believed that Richard would be found. On the dig’s first day, the remains of a man with a twisted spine were uncovered, spawning a media circus. Pitts’s book is proof that one doesn’t need to be fascinated with Richard III to be enthralled by the story of his body’s discovery. (Nov.)
Booklist
“This compelling and easily accessible account of the dig for the remains of King Richard III of England will appeal to a broad cross-section of readers, including history, mystery, and archaeology buffs. Combining Richard’s history and demise, the physical excavation itself, and cutting-edge forensic science involved, the author seamlessly weaves this centuries-in-the-making tale into a dramatic thriller. Pitts is an archaeologist himself, and his passionate enthusiasm for his subject matter is contagious.”
Choice
“A readable archaeological perspective on the dig that led to the sensational discovery in 2012 of the skeleton of England’s King Richard III, buried in 1485. . . . Highly recommended.”
Booklist/American Library Association
“This compelling and easily accessible account of the dig for the remains of King Richard III of England will appeal to a broad cross-section of readers, including history, mystery, and archaeology buffs. Combining Richard’s history and demise, the physical excavation itself, and cutting-edge forensic science involved, the author seamlessly weaves this centuries-in-the-making tale into a dramatic thriller. Pitts is an archaeologist himself, and his passionate enthusiasm for his subject matter is contagious.”
Scientific American
“Pitts recounts the exhilarating dig--in which the lead archaeologist promised to eat his hat if the skeleton actually turned up.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Illuminates the tangled, bloody wars of 15th-century England and patient excavation work of 21st-century researchers....Informative.”
The Dispatch
“An amazing story.”
Portland Book Review
“It reads like an Indiana Jones adventure, albeit without the obligatory bad guys.”
The Dallas Morning News
“At its liveliest, Pitts' account reads like a police procedural, with clues, false leads, and finally a killing unraveled and a mystery triumphantly solved.... As much about the diggers as about who or what they dug up.”
Library Journal
08/01/2014
Popular interest in the English Wars of the Roses (1455–85) has in recent years been focused by Philippa Gregory's historical novels and the derivative television series The White Queen. The period ended with the defeat and death of King Richard III by Henry Tudor (Henry VII) at Bosworth on August 22, 1485. It also concluded by leaving some engaging mysteries unsolved: the whereabouts of Richard III's mortal remains and his disputed role in the disappearance of his young nephews, the princes in the tower. Pitts (editor, British Archaeology) tells the fascinating story of the fortuitous collaboration of archaeologist Richard Buckley and the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, in conjunction with writer Philippa Langley and the Richard III Society, that resulted in the Grey Friars Project excavations of a car park in Leicester, England. The very first effort yielded the bones of the lost king in September 2012. The author traces the months of scientific analysis of the remains, culminating in the February 2013 announcement that DNA evidence of Richard III had been found. VERDICT This remarkable cold-case-file narrative, intended for general readers, is a must for all English history buffs as well as readers interested in contemporary urban archaeology.—Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Pierce, FL
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-08-26
When an archaeological expedition found one of England's most maligned kings in an urban parking lot, it was a worldwide sensation. Here's the complete story. British Archaeology editor Pitts begins with a quick summary of Richard III's reign and his death at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. He had been king only two years, a temporary victor in the Wars of the Roses. But after his defeat, Richard became one of history's villains, notably in Shakespeare's play bearing his name. However, not everyone bought the image of the evil Richard. In 2010, aspiring screenwriter Philippa Langley (whose The King's Grave also examines the discovery of the site) called Richard Buckley of the University of Leicester archaeology department. She had a simple proposition: The Richard III Society wanted to help finance a search for the king's body, believed to be buried in Leicester. Buckley didn't think anyone could find the lost body, but he wanted to explore the area of the city where the body might be found. When the dig, which took place in a parking lot, turned up a skeleton the first day, it still seemed next to impossible that it could be Richard. Only upon closer examination did the team recognize the twisted spine that history had attributed to the king, as well as other important details. Pitts details the events leading up to the discovery and describes the scientific examination of the skeleton. Chemical analysis of the bones, study of the wounds the victim had sustained and reconstruction of the facial appearance of the victim—all supported the hypothesis that it was indeed Richard. DNA evidence clinched the case. The archaeological world was stunned. Pitts calls the find the most amazing since the excavation of King Tut's tomb in 1924, and he effectively conveys the excitement of the discovery, clearly and vividly describing the process and the personalities. Writing this book must have been the dream of a lifetime for Pitts, and he has risen to the occasion. Highly recommended.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500252000
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publication date: 11/11/2014
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 60,023
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Mike Pitts is an archaeologist and award-winning journalist. He has directed his own excavations and conducted scientific research, from Stonehenge to an Easter
Island statue, and for the last ten years has edited Britain’s leading archaeological magazine, British Archaeology.
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