One of the beautiful aspects of teeth is that when you are dead and buried, your teeth won’t decompose. From who the person is to their bone health and even overall mental health, you can learn a lot about a person’s life from their teeth. With advancements in technology, we can learn more about the lives of the deceased.
A Look at the Life of King Richard III
Teeth have been used for decades to identify the dead and dead famous people in history. In September of 2012, the remains of King Richard III were found under a carpark in Leicester, England an astounding 500 years after his death. The finding of his teeth and bones helped historians shed light on his life, including social status, diet, and where he was living. From studying his bones, it’s suggested that he enjoyed rich food and wine during his two-year reign as king. These years were also the last of his life as he was killed at 32 during the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
King Richard III was portrayed as an evil figure whose reputation was further diminished by critiques of his physical appearance. He suffered from severe scoliosis, which left many to label him as a ‘hunchback.’ In fact, many Tudor writers, artists, and most famously, William Shakespeare depicted him as an evil, dictatorial hunchback. One of Shakespeare’s most famous works is a play appropriately named: King Richard III, which shows him as a tyrannical hunch-backed monarch.
The two years King Richard III reigned are remembered as turbulent and violent. He is best-known for the accusations against him killing his two nephews in order to hold claim to the throne. Edward V and his younger brother Richard were imprisoned by Richard III so that he could usurp the crown. Both boys were taken to the Tower of London, where they stayed until they died. Lord Hastings, who was the trusted adviser to King Edward IV was also executed after being charged with treason, so that on July 6, 1483, Richard III was officially named England’s new king.
With his nephews dead, King Richard III was the only remaining great-great-grandson of Edward III, and thus the new king. As previously mentioned, his reign was short. After the Battle of Bosworth, which ultimately ended the Wars of the Roses, Richard III died. He suffered two brutal blows to the head from a halberd and a sword. His body was then stripped, disfigured and given to a group of Franciscan Friars for burial. After Henry VIII got rid of the monasteries, all records regarding Richard III vanished.
King Richard III’s Bones
Rumor had it that Richard III’s body was thrown into a nearby river during the Reformation, but researchers discovered that his body was actually buried in the Grey Friars area in Leicester, which later was destroyed and became a car park. In August 2012, a parking lot in Leicester was torn apart by excavators hoping to retrieve the body of Richard III. Eventually, a skeleton was found. With the help of mitochondrial DNA retrieved from the skeleton’s teeth, genealogists were able to research and find two living descendants of Richard III’s mother. The descendants were unaware of their royal connection and history. The DNA extracted proved that the skeleton found was in fact, King Richard III, a distant relative.
Before he was officially laid to rest, King Richard III’s examined remains expressed his lifestyle before death. For example, the bioapatite and collagen on his teeth formed during adolescence was compared with a femur and rib bone, which was representative of the last few years of his life. The rib bone showed an increase in oxygen isotope values and nitrogen levels; meaning his diet was high in wine and expensive foods such as crane, swan, herring, and egret. The findings also show that he may have drunk more foreign wine during his remaining years, which could explain the change in the oxygen isotope ratio found in the rib sample.
King Richard III’s Teeth
King Richard’s teeth also exposed that he was missing three molars, lost to cavities and decay. The examination of the spaces in his mouth showed that his missing teeth were pulled by an experienced and skilled person, a luxury afforded only to royals. Another missing tooth located near his head injuries is believed to have been lost during the blows to his head that ultimately caused his death. His teeth also showed that he had a basic knowledge of dental hygiene; although a few mineral deposits were found on some of his teeth. The last bit of analysis of his teeth proved that Richard also suffered from stress-related bruxism, which is understandable considering his turbulent life and that he wasn’t well-liked.
The Re-burial of King Richard III
King Richard III’s remains were finally re-buried in March of 2015 complete with a ceremony and royal pomp. “The reinterment of King Richard III is an event of great national and international significance,” Queen Elizabeth II said, “Today, we recognize a king who lived through turbulent times and whose Christian faith sustained him in life and death.” He was laid to rest nearby at the Leicester Cathedral, close to where he met his grisly demise.
Thanks to tooth analysis, we were able to learn a little bit more about the life of this hunchback villain who inspired Shakespeare and other artists at the time.