Shakespeare Skull Likely Stolen

March 25, 2016 by  

Shakespeare Skull Likely Stolen, A story often dismissed as wild fiction, that 18th-century grave robbers stole Shakespeare’s skull, appears to be true, archaeologists have said.

The first archaeological investigation of Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity church in Stratford-on-Avon has been carried out for a documentary to be broadcast by Channel 4 on Saturday.

The most striking conclusion is that Shakespeare’s head appears to be missing and that the skull was probably stolen from what is a shallow grave by trophy hunters.

Kevin Colls, the archaeologist who led the team, said the grave was not as they had expected. “We came across this very odd, strange thing at the head end. It was very obvious, within all the data we were getting, that there was something different going on at that particular spot. We have concluded it is signs of disturbance, of material being dug out and put back again.”

There is also “a very strange brick structure” that cuts across the head end of the grave, he said.

All of that gives credence, Colls said, to a story published in the Argosy magazine in 1879 that Shakespeare’s skull was stolen from Holy Trinity in 1794.

“Grave-robbing was a big thing in the 17th and 18th century,” said Colls. “People wanted the skull of famous people so they could potentially analyse it and see what made them a genius. It is no surprise to me that Shakespeare’s remains were a target.”

Shakespeare’s grave is visited by hundreds of visitors each year, a number that may increase in 2016 – the 400th anniversary of his death.

It carries no name, only a slightly disturbing warning: “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear, / To dig the dust enclosed here. / Blessed be the man that spares these stones, / And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

The archaeological team used non-invasive ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to examine the grave and were able to put to bed a few myths about Shakespeare’s burial.

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