Radar scan of Shakespeare's grave confirms skull apparently missing

Thu Mar 24, 2016 8:18am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - Shakespeare's skull is likely missing from his grave, an archaeologist has concluded, confirming rumors which have swirled for years about grave-robbers and adding to the mystery surrounding the Bard's remains.

Four hundred years after his death and burial at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford-upon-Avon, central England, researchers were allowed to scan the grave of England's greatest playwright with ground-penetrating radar.

But in the area under the church floor where the Bard's skull was expected to be, they found signs of interference.

"We have Shakespeare's burial with an odd disturbance at the head end and we have a story that suggests that at some point in history someone's come in and taken the skull of Shakespeare," said archaeologist Kevin Colls from Staffordshire University.

"It's very very convincing to me that his skull isn't at Holy Trinity at all."

The findings deepen the mystery around Shakespeare's last resting place.

The grave does not bear his name, merely this warning rhyme: "Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear, to dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones."

In their quest to find Shakespeare's skull, Colls's team also investigated a long-standing tale that it was hidden in a sealed crypt in another church 15 miles (24 km) across the English countryside in Worcestershire.

But analysis of that skull showed it to be that of a woman who had been in her 70s when she died.   Continued...

An actor performs during William Shakespeare's theatre play "Hamlet" at the Jerusalem Centre for the Performing Arts in this file photograph dated December 11, 2008.  REUTERS/ Eliana Aponte/files