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article imageWilliam Shakespeare's head has gone missing

By Karen Graham     Mar 24, 2016 in Science
London - Archaeologists who scanned the grave of William Shakespeare made a most startling discovery. The Bard appears to have lost his head.
In preparation for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 1616, the scan of the grave was just one of a number of projects marking the Bard's death in anticipation of a documentary to be televised on the BBC on Saturday, and this summer's World Shakespeare Congress.
In order to not disturb the final resting place of the Shakespeare family in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Holy Trinity Church, archaeologists used ground-penetrating radar to examine the grave in February this year. The study was led by Staffordshire University archaeologist Kevin Colls, according to News.com.au.
Colls reported that there was “an odd disturbance at the head end,” along with evidence of repairs at some time after the original burial. Colls says the findings support a claim first made in 1879, and considered a myth, that the Bard's skull was stolen in the 18th century. “It’s very, very convincing to me that his skull isn’t at Holy Trinity at all,” Dr Colls said.
Based on church records, reports The State, Shakespeare was buried two days after his death in his hometown church, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from London. Shakespeare was 52 years old. Later, his wife, Anne Hathaway, and a daughter and son-in-law were also buried alongside him when they died. All the graves were about one meter in depth.
Interestingly, Colls and geophysicist Erica Utsi found that the family members lie in shallow graves in the church chancel, rather than a single vault. The scans showed no trace of nails or other metals, leading to the assumption the family members were buried in cloth shrouds instead of coffins.
Colls said that the findings are sure to spark "discussion, scholarly debate and controversial theories." He noted that some Shakespeare scholars will still remain skeptical. Michael Dobson, director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham, says the grave-robbing claim was first made in a short story, written in 1879.
"It's striking the piece of fiction imagines Shakespeare being buried quite shallow, and it turns out he was buried quite shallow," he said Thursday. "But it is still a piece of fiction."
In Shakespeare's "Hamlet," a skull has the starring role when the Danish prince addresses the bone-white cranium of the man he once knew, saying, "Alas, poor Yorick!" But Dobson thinks it would have been unusual for anyone at that time to have robbed a writer's grave. "There wasn't a huge fashion for robbing literary graves in the 18th century," he said.
Holy Trinity's Vicar, Patrick Taylor says he's not convinced there is "sufficient evidence to conclude that his skull has been taken." He added that there are no plans to disturb the grave. “We shall have to live with the mystery of not knowing fully what lies beneath the stone,” he said.
Newsweek is reporting that as viewers will see when the documentary airs on Saturday, Colls and his team of researchers look into another Shakespeare legend. It is said that Shakespeare's skull was buried in a crypt inside St. Leonard’s church in Worcestershire, about 15 miles from Holy Trinity.
Colls did a forensic anthropological survey, and the skull in the crypt belongs to an unknown woman, believed to be in her 70s at the time of her death.
“It was a great honor to be the first researcher to be given permission to undertake non-invasive archaeological investigations at the grave of William Shakespeare,” said Colls.
More about William shakespeare, Skull, trophy hunters, Archaeologists, Holy Trinity Church
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