Researchers from the University of Leicester digging at the site where the bones of King Richard III were recently found cannot stop discovering additional coffins, even those that were clearly meant to never be disturbed.
Underneath the dirt where Richard’s bones mouldered lay another coffin. An older coffin, this one made of stone. Within that coffin rests a second coffin made of lead. Within the second coffin is something unknown.
Now the scientists wish to meddle with something that was sealed and buried twice.
Archaeologist Matthew Morris, who clearly has never seen a film where the scientist dies immediately after saying “I’ve never seen anything like this…let’s open it,” made the following statement:
None of us in the team have ever seen a lead coffin within a stone coffin before…We will now need to work out how to open it safely, as we don’t want to damage the contents when we are opening the lid.
An old woman in a grey cloak has hovered near the edge of the dig for the last three weeks, despite repeated attempts to escort her off the premises. “There is no way to open it safely,” she howls over the pounding of the machines. “Put it back. It is not too late. Put it back.”
Picture the scene, if you can: Leicester, some 700 years ago. A group of villagers–spent, exhausted, harrowed–stand solemnly around a fresh grave.
“A coffin within a coffin,” one of the eldest says. In the distance, a figure hooded in grey slips silent and unnoticed into the mist.
“A coffin of lead, no less,” his nearest companion adds. “Surely it will sleep soundly now. The danger is contained.” Wearily they shake hands, shovel the last of the dirt over the unquiet earth, and head for home, and for sleep. They are tired, too.
Cut to the present, where the inner lead coffin has already been “carried off to the university, where researchers will conduct tests to determine the safest way to open it without damaging the remains.”
There is no safe way. There will be damage. Thus far they have “been able to get a look at the feet through a hole in the bottom of the inner coffin.”
They will see a great deal more before the hole is closed again.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.