Monday, February 4, 2013

Remains of King Richard III Confirmed by DNA.

by Janet Crain
Today's announcement of the historic DNA discoveries concerning Richard III is very important to every DNA project. The body was not at all protected. It lay for some 528 years in a shallow rudely built grave with no protection. And yet usable mtDNA has been recovered and it is hoped that Y chromosome DNA will be also. mtDNA is mitochondrial DNA passed down by the female. Every person has it, but only the mother can pass it on. It is from a non-coding region of the mitochondrial  genetic material. That means it does not get shuffled and mixed up with every transmission. It just remains pristine and stable for hundreds even thousands of years without a mutation. And so it can be compared 17 generations later and produce a perfect match between one seventeenth cousins. It is also plentiful and more robust. By contrast the Y chromosome, which is carried only by males and follows the paternal line is fragile and scare. Yet this team believes they can obtain usable Y chromosome DNA. Let us hope they are correct because the origin of the Plantagenet line is somewhat murky. 


At a specially convened media conference, experts from across the University unanimously identified the remains discovered in Leicester city centre as being those of the last Plantagenet king who died in 1485.
Rigorous scientific investigations confirmed the strong circumstantial evidence that the skeleton found at the site of the Grey Friars church in Leicester was indeed that of King Richard III.
University of Leicester researchers have revealed a wealth of evidence – including DNA analysis, radiocarbon dating and skeletal examination – proving the identity of the skeleton.

The complete skeleton showing the curve of the spine. Copyright – University of Leicester
University of Leicester archaeologists co-director Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the Search for Richard III, said: “It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that the individual exhumed at Grey Friars in August 2012 is indeed King Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England.
“It has been an honour and privilege for all of us to be at the centre of an academic project that has had such phenomenal global interest and mass public appeal. Rarely have the conclusions of academic research been so eagerly awaited.”
University of Leicester geneticist Dr Turi King confirmed that DNA from the skeleton matches that of two of Richard III’s family descendants – Canadian-born furniture maker Michael Ibsen and a second person who wishes to remain anonymous.
Dr King, of the University’s Department of Genetics, said: “The DNA sequence obtained from the Grey Friars skeletal remains was compared with the two maternal line relatives of Richard III. We were very excited to find that there is a DNA match between the maternal DNA from the family of Richard the Third and the skeletal remains we found at the Grey Friars dig.”
Skeletal analysis carried out by University of Leicester osteoarchaeologist Dr Jo Appleby showed that the individual was male and in his late 20s to late 30s. Richard III was 32 when he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
Richard III - Wiki Commons
Richard III – Wiki Commons
The individual had a slender physique and severe scoliosis – a curvature of the spine – possibly with one shoulder visibly higher than the other. This is consistent with descriptions of Richard III’s appearance from the time.
Trauma to the skeleton indicates the individual died after one of two significant wounds to the back of the skull – possibly caused by a sword and a halberd.
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