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Multi-isotope analysis demonstrates significant lifestyle changes in King Richard III

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posted on 2017-01-18, 10:19 authored by A. L. Lamb, J. E. Evans, Richard Buckley, Jo Appleby
The discovery of the mortal remains of King Richard III provide an opportunity to learn more about his lifestyle, including his origins and movements and his dietary history; particularly focussing on the changes that Kingship brought. We analysed bioapatite and collagen from sections of two teeth which formed during Richard's childhood and early adolescence, and from two bones: the femur (which averages long-term conditions), and the rib (which remodels faster and represents the last few years of life). We applied multi element isotope techniques to reconstruct a full life history. The isotopes initially concur with Richard's known origins in Northamptonshire but suggest that he had moved out of eastern England by age seven, and resided further west, possibly the Welsh Marches. In terms of his diet, there is a significant shift in the nitrogen, but not carbon isotope values, towards the end of his life, which we suggest could be explained by an increase in consumption of luxury items such as game birds and freshwater fish. His oxygen isotope values also rise towards the end of his life and as we know he did not relocate during this time, we suggest the changes could be brought about by increased wine consumption. This is the first suggestion of wine affecting the oxygen isotope composition of an individual and thus has wider implications for isotope-based palaeodietary and migration reconstructions.


The Richard III society, Leicester Shire Promotions and Leicester City Council provided funding for the excavation.



Journal of Archaeological Science, 2014, 50, pp. 559-565

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, ARTS AND HUMANITIES/School of Archaeology and Ancient History/Core Staff


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Journal of Archaeological Science


Elsevier, Association for Environmental Archaeology



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