Sofia meets Richard III at the Science Festival

Richard III, or at least a 3D printout of his remains, is making his first visit to Bulgaria – in effect, the first time these bones have left England since his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field 531 years ago.

The king’s real bones were, of course, re-interred after the exhumation of Richard and scientific examination of his remains. But for the visitor to the Sofia Science Festival, the stark detail of the 3D replica, the first time it has left Britain, brings a close proximity, insights into history, archaeology, forensics and genetics.

A stand at the Sofia Science Festival in Zaimov Park is drawing the curious to meet Richard, in the form of the skeleton enclosed in a glass case, with a team of experts – Sarah Fitzpatrick, Mathew Morris and Andy Hyam – from the University of Leicester specially on hand to explain everything about the last Plantagenet monarch, his death in battle, and the 2012 discovery and identification of his remains.

Visitors are told, step-by-step, of what may be deduced about the moments of Richard’s death – to which may be added that what has been established about that crucial turning point on Bosworth Field has had an effect on latter-day re-enactments of the battle.

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Sarah was a key member of the team working on the Grey Friars project for the DNA identification of Richard III. She is a Professor of Materials and Forensic Engineering at the University of Leicester. Sarah is also a Dean of The Graduate School at Leicester. Her research in the area of forensic engineering is into two main areas – forces involved in stabbing and characterising tool marks in injury and dismemberment. She has recently been invited to become a founder member of the Hall of Fame of Inspiring Technical Women by the Women’s Engineering Society.

Mathew graduated from the University of Leicester in 2003 with a BA in Archaeology and an MA in Landscape Studies. Since graduating Mathew has worked for archaeological units and museums in Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire, excavating a wide range of rural and urban archaeology from the prehistoric period to the Industrial Revolution. Since 2004 he has worked for ULAS where he has participated in a series of major urban excavations in Leicester, including the Highcross Leicester Project, as well as other projects across the East Midlands. In 2011 he co-authored Visions of Ancient Leicester and in 2012 he led excavations looking at the medieval St John’s Hospital in Leicester, a late Roman cemetery just outside Leicester and the Greyfriars Project, the archaeological search for the last known resting place of Richard III. His interests include urban archaeology, and Roman and medieval archaeology.


Andy Hyam has a BSc in Archaeology and a Masters degree in Archaeology and Heritage Management, both gained at the University of Leicester. He also has a Certificate in Architectural History, from the University of Leicester. Since 2004 he has helped supervise and run the annual University of Leicester undergraduate training excavations which have taken place at Leicester Abbey, the Wallingford Burh to Burrough project in Oxfordshire and at the Iron Age Hillfort at Burrough Hill, Leicestershire.

The display during the four days of the festival, which continues until May 15, is a companion to the May 13 presentation by the university’s Dr Turi King, “Richard III: Solving a 500-year-old cold case”.

The experts unveil the evidence that was gleaned from the skeleton – the teeth, revealing that the person was between 27 and 37 years of age, the slices and holes in the skull suggesting a violent death in battle, the striking skewing of the spine from scoliosis, the femur measurement indicating that Richard III would have been about 1.72 m tall; though he would have appeared shorter than that in his later years because of the scoliosis.

Richard III at Sofia Science Festival II

Add the carbon dating, the chemical analysis showing an aristocratic – for the time – diet, heavy in fish and meat; and then those things that are not there, in spite of Shakespeare’s lines; neither arm is withered; there is no sign that Richard would have limped.

In addition to the team only too happy to answer questions, visitors are invited to fill in an activity sheet about solving what had been a five-century mystery.

For the full programme of The Sofia Science Festival in English, please click here, and for information on tickets and access to the festival, please click here.

The Sofia Science Festival is organised by the British Council Bulgaria and is under the patronage of the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science. The Sofia Globe is a media partner of The Sofia Science Festival 2016.



The Sofia Globe staff

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