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Digging for Richard III: How Archaeology Found the King [Hardcover]

Mike Pitts
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 April 2014
The events of Richard IIIs reign and his death in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth are known worldwide through Shakespeares most performed, filmed and translated history play. Digging for Richard III is the page-turning story of how his grave was found, the people behind the discovery and what it tells us. It is the first complete narrative of a project that blended passion, science, luck and detection. Told by a noted archaeologist with access to all the parties involved, it follows the quest from an idea born in an Edinburgh bookshop to the day, fourteen years later, when two archaeologists carefully raised the bones from a car park in Leicester, and the scientific studies that resulted. The vivid tale of a king, his demise and now his rediscovery, this is also an insiders gripping account of how modern archaeology really works, of how clues meticulously assembled and forensically examined are pieced together to create a narrative worthy of the finest detective fiction.

Frequently Bought Together

Digging for Richard III: How Archaeology Found the King + Richard III: The King Under the Car Park: The Story of the Search for England's Last Plantagenet King + Richard III: The Road to Leicester
Price For All Three: £28.77

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd (14 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500252009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500252000
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 79,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mike Pitts is a writer and broadcaster who started out as a professional archaeologist and museum curator, directing excavations at Stonehenge and elsewhere. He has written for the Times, Telegraph, Sunday Times, Guardian, New Scientist, BBC History Magazine and other papers and magazines, and continues to conduct original archaeological research which is published in peer-reviewed journals. He enjoys photography and travelling (having spent some years in Asia, Canada and the Pacific, Madagascar and elsewhere), and helped to open and run a groundbreaking vegetarian restaurant at the World Heritage Site of Avebury in southern England. He is editor of the Council for British Archaeology's magazine, British Archaeology.

Product Description


An entertaining, knowledgeable and forensic examination of one of the most extraordinary archaeological digs ever! --Sir Tony Robinson

Pitts has created an utterly compelling read. --The Independent on Sunday, Will Gore

Mike Pitts tells a compelling story: the resurrection of one of England's most controversial monarchs. Not so much a who-dunnit, as a what- why- and how-dunnit: history's most remarkable cold case, and a fascinating glimpse into the 21st-century world of faith, science and publicity. Compulsively readable. --David Miles, former Chief Archaeologist at English Heritage

Cuts through the hype and hysteria about Richard III. It gives a balanced view of all the historical and archaeological evidence, but at the same time it's a real page-turner. I couldn't put it down. A must for anyone interested in English history. --Francis Pryor, author of 'Britain BC' and 'Britain in the Middle Ages'

An utterly compelling book ... This is a book which tells us as much about modern archaeology and the personalities of those who found Richard, as it does about a long dead king. By the end you might be dusting down your trowel and setting out for the nearest dig. --The Independent on Sunday

Mike Pitts [deploys] a battery of techniques for building drama and tension ... a potential bestseller. --Society of Antiquaries Newsletter

A terrific slice of archaeological investigation. --Books Monthly

A fascinating account of history, science and collaboration. --Your Family Tree

[A] wonderfully entertaining exploration of the incredible story, including insights from all the main characters ... Beautifully and knowledgeably written, moving and funny, it's a real page-turner I wasn't able to put down. --Family Tree Magazine

Vividly describes the 2012 excavation. As Pitts stresses in the prologue, it was not a typical dig, and he describes it blow-by-blow; for me it was as good as being there. Excellent stuff. --BBC History Magazine

The vivid tale of a king, his demise, and the thrilling rediscovery of his remains ... an insider's account of how modern archaeology really works, and how it was used to piece together the mystery of Richard's resting place. --Military History

Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much needed summary 28 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Much has been written about the excavation of the remains of Richard III, but nearly all from a journalistic viewpoint. Mike Pitts is an archaeologist (as is this reviewer) and also Editor of the respected 'British Archaeology,' magazine of the CBA. Mike writes authoritatively about the problems and triumphs of the archaeologists involved, without denigrating the work of the historians and journalists.
One disappointing feature is the lack of colour in the illustrations. Perhaps this is a result of economies at the publishers? Whatever, the subject cries out for colour.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For those who have been fascinated by the discovery of the remains of King Richard III in Leicester, Mike Pitts' excellent account of the background, preparation, discovery and identification stages of the project does this amazing historical, archaeological and scientific achievement justice. The book both amplifies and puts into context the events shown in the Channel 4 "King in the Car Park" documentary, and to some extent explains and foretells the argy bargy and discord that the following two years have seen over the extensive testing and above all the disputed burial place for England's last Plantagenet King.

Pitts is a professional archaeologist, and clearly has close links to the Leicester University team. There is quite a lot of technical detail which he explains in a lucid and uncomplicated way for the lay reader. He has a keen analytical eye for the human interactions, too - he understands and to an extent sympathises with the Ricardians - seeing that their romanticised and passionate advocacy of the King would inevitably create tensions with the extensive forensic investigation that followed the discovery. Neutral he may not be, but he's honest and generous with the credit he gives to all those involved and rightly so.

If I had the teensiest criticism with the book, it is that the technical detail tends to leave you wanting more, for instance he introduces the issue of the remarkable preservation of the bones, not only from the almost constant redevelopment of the area around the Greyfriars Priory, but also that Leicester's geology (the lack of building stone means from Roman times onwards, one era's buildings were plundered to build the next) preserved the bones when in other places they would have dissolved away ... and leaves that hanging.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loyal Ricardian 3 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book has been read with genuine interest and pleasure. It will be kept on my shelves alongside Paul Murray Kendall, Josephine Tey, and other more academic volumes, as a perfect reference source for the memorable Leicester dig. It not only provides the technical information I’d hoped for, I loved the gentle humour which reminded me of archaeologists I’ve known. I particularly appreciate the Leicester team’s opinion that the dig’s outcome wasn’t normal because it certainly was not! Your book fills gaps left by the Channel 4 production of the ‘King in the Carpark,’ and particularly pleases by awarding praise where praise was due. Archaeology has done well for Richard during the last few years. Bosworth battlefield site is more accurately identified than before, the defeated king has been resurrected, all that’s left is for documents to be discovered proving he didn’t murder his nephews (though there's little chance of that). My feelings remain divided between sincere admiration and utmost respect for work done by the Leicester team, and desire to see the king’s remains reburied in York, though thanks to your book I can now fully understand why that almost certainly won’t happen). I really do congratulate and thank you for producing such a well-written and informative publication. I’m sure it will be regarded as essential reading for many future archaeologists and historians.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All you need to know about the dig! 27 May 2014
By lyndel
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Brilliant - really informative, and quite complex in places, but very readable. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it.
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