By Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times –
LONDON — Archaeologists searching for the tomb of Richard III are being given an extra week to excavate in light of promising findings of their dig beneath a parking lot in central England.
The medieval king made famous as a villain in Shakespeare’s play was buried in the city of Leicester after his death in battle against his successor, Henry VII, at Bosworth Field in 1485. Franciscan brothers interred Richard without ceremony in a friary whose location has been lost over the centuries.
But based on a recent analysis of old maps, experts began looking for the site beneath a small municipal parking lot in downtown Leicester two weeks ago. The dig was scheduled to end Sunday, but lead archaeologist Richard Buckley said city officials had granted a week’s extension.
“Things are going extremely well, and we are now confident that we have located the east end of the church, so identifying the quire is becoming a real possibility,” said Buckley, referring to an area near the church’s likely altar.
He and other scholars speculate that Richard would have been entombed near the altar in homage to his exalted status.
Finding his bones would lay to rest a mystery surrounding what became of the remains of the last English king to die in battle. The usurpation of Richard III ushered in the Tudor dynasty and eventually led to Shakespeare’s indelible—some say wildly inaccurate—portrayal of Richard as a ruthless fiend who ordered his innocent young nephews killed in the Tower of London so that he could take the throne.
Two years ago, scholars announced that they had identified the site of Bosworth Field, where Richard lost his crown and his life on Aug. 22, 1485. After the battle, the slain king’s broken body was paraded through Leicester, then buried by the Franciscans.
Their friary was abandoned after Henry VIII disbanded England’s monasteries. A marker stood at the spot of Richard’s grave for some time before it too vanished.