Watch: Scientists find the brutal blow that killed Richard III

Watch: Scientists find the brutal blow that killed Richard III
A small, traumatic lesion still visible on the interior of King Richard III's skull may reveal how the medieval monarch died. (University of Leicester)

Researchers studying the skull of King Richard III say they have determined the fatal blow that killed the medieval monarch more than 500 years ago.

The alignment of a mark on the inside of the skull, a wound on a vertebra, and the smaller of two wounds on the base of the neck suggest he was killed by a weapon that was thrust from the base of his neck into his head, researchers said.


A video released Friday shows the moment of this grisly discovery in real time.

Richard III was just 32 when he died in the Battle of Bosworth Field on Aug. 22, 1485.

His remains were lost to history until 2012, when his skeleton was discovered under a parking lot in the town of Leicester where a friary once stood.

Pathologists and archaeologists who examined the skeleton found evidence of 11 wounds that had been inflicted at or near the time of death. Nine of the injuries were on the skull, one was on the rib cage and one was on the pelvis.

The researchers say the pelvis injury was likely delivered after Richard was killed because his armor would have protected him from an attack in that area during battle. At the time, being stabbed in the rear was considered a "humiliation injury."

The large number of wounds to his head suggest that he either took off his helmet or it fell off the researchers said.

The fateful injury was discovered by Guy Rutty, a professor at the University of Leicester and a forensic pathologist. As he examined the skull, osteologist Jo Appleby looked on. Appleby led the exhumation of the skeleton from the parking lot.

The moment was caught on film by video producer Carl Vivian, who works for the University.

"During filming, Professor Rutty noted a small traumatic lesion on the interior surface of the cranium, directly opposite the sharp force trauma," said Appleby in a statement. "Careful examination showed the two injuries lined up with one another, and also with an injury to Richard's first cervical vertebra."

Rutty described the discovery as one of those "eureka moments."

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