Richard III discovery spurs excitement, skepticism (+video)
Richard III's remains have been identified 'beyond reasonable doubt,' say researchers, but others are skeptical of the type of DNA match the team used to confirm his identity.
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The announcement that the bones of English King Richard III have been identified "beyond reasonable doubt" has spurred excitement — and some skepticism — among the archaeological community.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures King Richard III lost and found
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"I'm really excited by it," said Lemont Dobson, a historian and archaeologist at the School of Public Service and Global Citizenship at Central Michigan University. "This is one of those things where people are talking about archaeology and real science, not pseudoscience on television."
On Twitter, "Richard III" was trending Monday morning, a fact that generated some amusement among users.
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"Man, when's the last time 'Richard III' was trending? Tewkesbury?" wrote GristList editor Jess Zimmerman, referring to a 1471 battle in the War of the Roses in which a young Richard played a role. That ongoing civil war would take Richard III's life 14 years later, two years after his ascent to the throne.
But some scientists struck a more sober note, warning that ancient DNA analysis is subject to contamination, and grumbling that the results were revealed via press conference prior to peer-review by fellow researchers. [Gallery: The Search for Richard III]
"The DNA results presented today are too weak, as they stand, to support the claim that DNA is actually from Richard III," said Maria Avila, a computational biologist at the Center for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. "Perhaps more in-depth DNA analysis summed to the archaeological and osteological [bone analysis] results would make a round story."
DNA of a king
University of Leicester archaeologists announced today (Feb. 4) that a skeleton found months before under a city council parking lot does indeed belong to the medieval king. The researchers suspected the bones might belong to Richard III, because they sported wounds consistent with the king's death in the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field. Several wounds to the skull, in particular, were consistent with almost immediate death by either brain injury or blood loss.