(A) Skeleton of Richard III at excavation, with sampling locations marked. S=sacral sample. C1=skull control sample. C2=control sample from outside grave.
What was eating Richard III? Literally?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with The Loh Down on Science
And to quote Shakespeare, “Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs.”
Richard III was a real king who ruled England in the 15th century. He was immortalized by Shakespeare as a royal pain in the you-know-what. In 2012, Richard’s long-lost body was found buried under a parking lot in Leicester. The site had once been a Franciscan monastery.
Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Leicester took soil samples from the area where Richard's intestines had been. There they found the microscopic eggs of roundworms. Since they didn’t find any trace of eggs in the skull or outside the skeletal area, they concluded that the parasites were living in—and dining on—Richard’s guts while he was alive—probably giving him a royal stomachache. No wonder he was so cranky!
How did the king get infected with roundworms? Poor kitchen hygiene, most likely. Roundworm is spread by fecal contamination, which could result from dirty hands or crop fertilization.
As for what was rotten in Denmark? Science minute for another day.
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