Mysterious Lead Coffins of the Medieval Leicester

When archaeologist dug the grave of king Richard III (former king of England) back in August 2013, the excavation still continued until one year later, a mysterious lead coffin was discovered. This coffin was placed inside a large limestone of sarcophagus.

Mathew Morris from the University of Leicester was the one who led the team of archaeologists where they have found a skeleton of an elderly women inside the mysterious lead coffin. They found the coffin just a few feet away from the grave site of king Richard III.

According to the archaeological experts, the women was probably the early benefactor of the friary. It is because due to the radiocarbon dating, she might have been buried before the church was even built in 1250. However, through the analysis of her death, it shows that her death could have taken place in the late 1400.

10 Coffins Discovered

There were actually 10 coffins that were discovered by Mathew Morris and his team. The four coffins (including the one mentioned above) were examined and they contain all female remains while the six other coffins were left undisturbed.

One among those ten coffins that were examine was a female with high status. Her lead coffin has an inlaid crucifix and was buried in presbytery of the friary's church probably close to the high altar. This alone means that she had a special status in the holy Catholic order.

The other two graves were found inside the choir where it contained wooden coffins. When examined, there were two remains of females with an estimated ages of between 40 to 50 years old. Based from the radiocarbon dating, it shows that they have died between 1270 to 1400.

When one of the female remains had undergone osteological examinations, it was found out that she suffered from a congenital hip dislocation. Thus, a conclusion was derived that she needed a crutch in order to walk.

The other women seemed to have spent her entire life doing hard physical labor. Her arms and legs shows a strong evidence of lifting heavy loads. But, what really bothers the archaeologists is her presence as one of the buried remains in the area that were reserved only for the wealthy benefactors and people with high social status.

As for the fourth coffin, it also contain a female remain. At first, the archaeologists thought that it was probably another women who lived a life of hard physical work. But through the analysis of the experts, it shows that the women had a highly-varied and protein-rich diet that only wealthy individuals can consume during the period of her time. Other than that, she is believed to have died at an early age of mid 20's.

One of the Female Remain Could be Emma

The only document on today's historical record about the time of burials (700 years ago) into the site was a lady named, "Emma". She was the wife of John Holt. However, the document does not contain much information for the archaeologist to distinguish her remains. They have no clue on how she looked like, her age at death and the exact location of her grave.

Mathew even claimed that it is impossible to determine if one of those skeletons was Emma due to the lack of information. If only she have a known descendants on this generation, a DNA testing can be done. Unfortunately, there is none.

Moreover, Mathew and his team of archaeologists believes that the mysterious lead coffins that they have uncovered will provide a lot of other interesting insights about the lives of the people in the period of medieval Leicester.