Richard III’s spine was twisted, not hunched

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Scientists made 3-D model of Richard III's spine

He had scoliosis with a curve of about 70 to 80 degrees

Today, he would have been a candidate for spine surgery

CNN  — 

When Shakespeare wrote of Richard III as a “bunchback’d toad,” he didn’t have the benefit of actually seeing the king, who had died in the previous century.

Now we know the playwright was probably wrong about Richard’s physical features.

Scientists have analyzed the bones of the British monarch and determined that he was not actually a hunchback. In fact, he had a significant spinal curve that we would call scoliosis. Researchers published their latest results Thursday in the Lancet.

“It’s a twist rather than a forward bend,” said study co-author Piers Mitchell of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

“We were expecting him to have a hunchback deformity the way Shakespeare described,” he added.

Richard III reigned over England from 1483 to 1485 and died during the two-hour Battle of Bosworth against the forces of Henry Tudor.

The king’s remains were discovered in 2012 under a parking lot. Archaeologists determined at that time that Richard III had scoliosis, a condition characterized by a curvature of the spine.

Researchers wanted to make sure Richard was like that in life, not just as a result of his bones having been buried for centuries. Just by looking at his skeleton, they had clues.

“A lot of the bones around the maximum part of the curve of his scoliosis were asymmetric. One side was different from the other, which shows that the deformity was a genuine thing during life.”

Using computerized tomography, researchers created a three-dimensional reconstruction of Richard’s spine. They also made a model of the spine using a 3-D printer. This let them examine the bones more closely than when the spine was in the ground.