The peers in the car park

Richard III dig University of Leicester

Buried in the new Antiquity between pages 519 and 538, the 13th of 14 research papers, is one about a grave. It doesn’t feature on the cover (that honour goes to a photo mosaic of ancient buildings in the Libyan Sahara), and there’s nothing to flag up what will undoubtedly be one of the journal’s most-consulted articles. It’s the first peer-reviewed report about the Richard III dig.

Some complained earlier in the year when the team announced the key results of the project to the press ahead of peer-reviewed publication (see my earlier blog). But by any standards – and though a small dig, this is a complex project involving many specialists and disciplines – this is fast. The dig closed in mid September. Antiquity received the submission five months later in mid February – exactly two weeks after the press conference – and, at least in this respect, recognised the public interest by seeing it through to print so fast. It’s reminiscent of the days of pre-commercial archaeology when “interim excavation reports” were much anticipated, and published rapidly in academic journals.

The report, of course, is about more than a grave. One of the interesting things is how the authors address the public interest. They recognise that the Richard III Society (who commissioned the dig) and the archaeologists who actually did the fieldwork, were after different things – the king’s grave, and insights into medieval Leicester.

“To some extent”, they conclude, “academic research questions coincide with the questions of our non-specialist partners and the wider public, but they are not identical. However, that does not mean that we as archaeologists should dismiss the questions of wider audiences as not worth asking.”

“Projects developed in this way may become more common in future as non-specialists increasingly become users, stakeholders and participants in academic research.”

This is big stuff.

Antiquity has made the report free online. It’s all very well done. For the non-specialist stakeholder (who sounds like, and could even be, an unskilled kitchen worker – try saying it out loud), there’s nothing dramatically new. But archaeologists will like the calmly presented detail, including these diagrams of the king’s grave (very lightly edited).

grave plan Antiquity

Grave section AntiquitySee: Buckley, R, Morris, M, Appleby, J, King, T, O’Sullivan, D & Foxhall, L. 2013. ‘The king in the car park’: new light on the death & burial of Richard III in the Grey Friars church, Leicester, in 1485. Antiquity 87, 519–38.

Photo University of Leicester, diagrams Antiquity Publications.

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