Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hidden Treasures and Obscured History

Richard III of England has made the news recently upon the discover of his remains and the verification of his identity using several forensic methods including corroboration between first hand accounts and the location and state of the remains, DNA testing, and facial reconstruction.


The body had it's legs chopped off during excavation for a foundation in the Victorian Era but was otherwise undisturbed as it lay underneath a modern parking lot. Nothing of consequence was found with the body, but the rest of the site of the former Grey Friars chapel had its own secrets to share.

It goes to show that you never knew what is beneath your feet. The longer a region has been inhabited, the more likely there are to be hidden treasures in the ground. By treasures I don't necessarily mean things of monetary value. Information can be far more important. Archeologists make their living by revealing what is beneath our feet.

One of the fun things about the discovery of Richard III's body is that his bones tell a tale that varies from what we thought we knew. While his spine is curved and one shoulder would have been higher than the other, it was not curved in a manner for him to appear hunchbacked. They also reveal how he died, two moral wounds to the head. Plus many post death injuries, likely from a sort of victory celebration by the winners of the battle. Not the most noble end, but this was a man who deposed his nephew and imprisoned he and his younger brother and they were never seen alive again. The one thing bones cannot tell us is what he was like when he was alive, only what he looked like and how he died.

It is fun to see what things obscured by history archeology can reveal. Archeology has changed our understanding of a great many past events. History is written by the winners, but the losers still have a voice, even from the grave. So things that have been obscured by the historical accounts can come to light and the truth can be seen.

As in everything, there is a lesson for writers in this. Especially those of us who create worlds. Just imagine how the history of a created world my differ from what really happened. What story ideas that can lead to.