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Digging for Richard III: How Archaeology Found the King Hardcover – 14 Apr 2014

4.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd; 01 edition (14 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500252009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500252000
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 455,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

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'

Well-crafted, fine-grained ... spellbinding ... Pitts's narrative gives us changing moods, exact dialogue, expressions on faces - and mounting amazement as the uncovering of the skeleton proceeded. --British Archaeology

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

About the Author

Mike Pitts is an archaeologist and award-winning journalist. He has directed his own excavations and conducted scientific research, from Stonehenge to an Easter Island statue, and for the last ten years has edited Britain's leading archaeological magazine, British Archaeology.

Customer Reviews

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By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 April 2015
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This is a totally fascinating and compelling book and is as exciting as an adventure story. It tells how Philippa Langley became interested in Richard III and determined to find his grave having had a feeling she knew exactly where it was. The task was taken on by an archaeological unit in Leicester which undertakes digs for the construction industry and local authorities when new building work is taking place to ensure than historical evidence is not overlooked and destroyed.

Their investigation had two aims - to find the site of the long demolished Grey Friars in the centre of Leicester and also to try and find Richard III's grave. Richard Buckley, the head of the archaeological unit thought finding Richard III's grave was a totally outside chance but he did believe they would find Grey Friars as all the records pointed to the area where they were going to dig.

The book is well written with plenty of notes at the end of the book and a bibliography for those who want to read more about Richard III and the investigation. I was completely absorbed in this book to the extent that I read for about three hours yesterday afternoon without moving. It is that sort of book. If you've every watched Time Team or similar archaeological programmes you will love this.
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I am fascinated by this -amazing !
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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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Brilliant - really informative, and quite complex in places, but very readable. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it.
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Superb! If you watched the television documentary about the dig in the Leicester car-park, you may think you don't need to read this book. You do! It gives you so much more than the excellent documentary about the finding of King Richard III. The first part, for example, explains how the situation that led to his death at the Battle of Bosworth came about. It is complicated, but it is fact, and the author can't help that that is what happened, and that people were changing sides and allegiances while plots were thickening all the time. Instead, he writes about it as clearly and succinctly as he can. And then moves on to the mission itself, with one set of people looking for Richard, the others, the archaeologists, realising there was very little chance of finding him and concentrating instead on finding a friary. That they found King Richard - straight away! - gives nothing away, because the documentary told us that, but the book adds so much to the television programme, and the author tells it in a way that makes this into a page-turner (well, in my case, a Kindle page-turner), very difficult to put down. The human side is here too, with a famous writer who is convinced they will find King Richard and won't be put off by any number of professionals telling her that that sort of thing just doesn't happen; and, fortunately, highly-skilled and talented archaeologists, who know exactly how to go about such a difficult task. Marvellous, fascinating book, not dry at all (well, perhaps the first part about who-did-what-to-who can be - my advice is either don't even try to work out the various allegiances, or to write every one down as you go along, so you can keep referring back), but is every bit as thrilling as a novel, while having the added advantage of telling the reader all about true historical events uncovered by modern archaeological methods and skill. Great book, highly recommended.
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By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Mar. 2015
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This book gives a fascinating account of the archaeological dig which unearthed the bones of Richard III under a car park in Leicester. Although the bones were confirmed as Richard III's remains in February 2013 the dig began in August 2012 and, of course, the background goes back many years before that. The book begins with a summary of Richard's life - the last English monarch to die in battle. There are also all the rumours about where Richard was supposedly buried and what might have become of his body - including myths it was later thrown into a nearby river.

It was screenwriter Philippa Langley, along with the extremely capable and enthusiastic, Richard III Society, who eventually approached archaeologist Richard Buckley with the idea of searching for Richard's remains. Philippa Langley's story is an intriguing one; she became interested in Richard II almost by chance and, instinctually, she felt he was buried in the car park when she visited there. It is easy, in this scientific study, to overlook such things as human intuition - but I am not sure you can ignore them completely. Certainly, Philippa Langley did her research, but her cold shivers while standing in a Leicester car park, is certainly part of the story.

It is fair to say that, even while the University of Leicester were brought on side, their priorities were different from those of Philippa Langley and the Society. While Langley was clear that her interest was in finding Richard III, Richard Buckley and his team were more interested in discovering the church of the Greyfriars, where he was rumoured to be buried, and which lay in the area of the dig. Indeed, Richard Buckley informed Philippa Langley that they were unlikely to be successful is discovering much, but she was optimistic.
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