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Richard III skeleton reveals lifestyle and cause of death


Researchers studying the bones of the last English monarch to die in battle have revealed that damage to the jaw and skull supports recorded evidence that Richard III was killed with blows so heavy that they drove the crown into his head. Dental examination also showed that the king may have been as nervous as he is portrayed to be by Shakespeare; his teeth were ground down by stress and there are signs of tooth decay.

In a paper written for the British Dental Journal, Dr Amit Rai detailed that Richard was ‘likely to have been killed by one or two blows to the base of the skull’ after riding into battle wearing his crown. King Richard died during the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and his remains were missing until last year, when they were found under a council car park and DNA analysis confirmed the skeletons identity.

As well as tooth decay, Dr Rai said that the monarch’s teeth and jaw showed signs of medieval dentistry, possibly needed because of a rich diet of carbohydrates and sugar, which the royal family would have enjoyed. The back teeth and upper right teeth had suffered some surface loss, suggesting Richard had stress-related bruxism – although the exact cause of this condition is not clear. Dr Rai also documented evidence that the king had undergone dental surgery and had two teeth extracted, noting that ‘Analysis… will enable the identification of the strains and diversity of bacteria which once inhabited Richard’s mouth and provide a better insight into this diet and oral hygiene habits.’

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