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3D Printing the Skull of Richard III

Dr. Mike



blog-0641605001398649702.jpgResearchers at the University of Leicester and Loughborough University have successfully 3D printed the skull of Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England. For those of you rusty in your English history (as I am), Richard III was killed in battle at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. This was the final major battle of the Wars of the Roses. The victor, Henry Tudor, went on to become King of England and founded the Tudor dynasty.


Richard III was buried in a nearby friary shortly after the battle, but the location of the friary was lost to antiquity. In 2012 the friary was discovered underneath a parking lot in Leicester, England and the subsequent excavation revealed the skeletal remains of the English King. The skeleton bore evidence of multiple traumatic injuries, especially to the skull, where there were multiple puncture and cleaving injuries. Additionally, there was significant scoliotic deformity of the spine, which is consistent with the famed hunchback appearance of the King. (Technically hunchbacks have kyphosis, not scoliosis, but close enough.)


To better illustrate the battle injuries and spinal deformities, and preserve the original bones, researchers performed CT scans of the bones and re-created them using 3D printing. They used the Mimics Innovation Suite from Materialise and printed the bones using laser sintering.



The Smithsonian Channel did a fascinating documentary about the excavation, including how they confirmed the identity of the skeleton using mitochondrial DNA via an unbroken line of maternal descendents (mitochondrial DNA is only passed from mother to child) to a Canadian furniture maker whose mitochondrial DNA exactly matched that extracted from the skeleton. Check out the Smithsonian Channel website for some additional details.

Thumbnail photo credit: Andrew Weekes Photography



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