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Public can watch as archaeologists unearth history at Richard III dig site

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Public can watch as archaeologists unearth history at Richard III dig site

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Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Communities and also in Education, Environment

The dig site viewing platform is now open, Leon Hunt acts as tour guide The dig site viewing platform is now open, Leon Hunt acts as tour guide

The discovery of Richard III sparked people’s interest around the world - and now everyone can watch the latest dig at the site of the grave.

A public viewing platform will be opened at the University of Leicester’s latest Grey Friars dig on Wednesday, July 10 – allowing all to watch as archaeologists unearth new secrets about the medieval friary.

This follows a successful first week of the team’s month-long excavation of the Grey Friars car park and adjacent car park of the former Alderman Newton School.

The team have made a trench measuring 25 metres by 17 metres – a much larger area than they were able to cover during the previous dig in August.

They hope this will uncover the whole east end of the church – including the choir area and the walking place around the main tower of the building.

During the first week, they used heavy machinery to remove the modern tarmac surfaces of the car parks and get down to the older material below.

The team have already reached the outlines of the Grey Friars church’s walls – showing the rough size, shape and orientation of the end of the building where Richard III was found.

They have also discovered lots of medieval floor tiles from the friary, some of which appear to have been reused in the 17th century garden built by Alderman Robert Herrick, a mayor of Leicester.

Over the coming week, they plan to dig out all the main features of the church, and investigate what may be underneath large stretches of wall.

The viewing platform – located at the north end of the former Alderman Newton School car park - will be open every day, and will be accessible from St. Martins, opposite Leicester Cathedral.

It will be open from Wednesday, July 10 to the end of July, with opening hours from 9am to 4pm.

The public will be able to watch as archaeologists investigate the church. The team found evidence of a further five burials during the last dig – including a 600-year-old stone coffin which should contain a high status burial.

In addition, members of the dig team will be on hand to talk to visitors about the latest progress and discoveries.

Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, of University of Leicester Archaeological Services, based within the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, said: “It is not often we get the chance to let the public watch excavations in progress. This is great opportunity for the public to stand in an elevated position and watch the work.

“They will get to see how the archaeologists work, as well as what the excavation process entails. They will also have the chance to witness discoveries being made.”

Site director Mathew Morris said: “We have made good progress in the first week – and now have a good sense of the orientation of the wall lines. We have already found a lots of medieval floor tiles which has been reused in Herrick’s garden path.

“Some are decorated – and probably from the church – and the rest are plain and come from the rest of the friary, including the cloister walk.”

Leading UK construction and infrastructure company Morgan Sindall is currently on site constructing a King Richard III Visitor Centre to showcase some of the finds from the site. Morgan Sindall is working with the archaeological team to enable access to the site whilst building work continues.

The University’s excavation is expected to take around four weeks.  Latest information on the progress of the dig, and more, can be found on our Richard III website: http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/

  • The Dig for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society.  The originator of the Search project was Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society.

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