“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.”
This is the inscription on William Shakespeare’s gravestone, located at Stratford-upon-Avon’s Holy Trinity Church. But the playwright put no curse on anyone trying to scan his bones, so archeologist Kevin Colls from the Staffordshire University should be safe.
Colls’ team used ground-penetrating radar so they could explore the tomb of Shakespeare, which generated some head-scratching results: it appears that his skull is missing.
According to the study, the team found “an odd disturbance at the head end,” which bears some evidence that the tomb had been repaired after the original burial.
This discovery supports a claim from 1879, which was treated as myth until now; another team of archeologists concluded that Shakespeare’s skull had been stolen by grave-robbers in the 18th century.
Colls said the evidence is rather convincing that the Bard’s skull is missing from his tomb at Holy Trinity. According to church records, Shakespeare was buried there on April 25, 1616, two days after he died at the age of 52.
Three other bodies were buried alongside him, that of his wife, Anne Hathaway, daughter and son-in-law. Instead of being laid in a single vault, the bodies of the family members were buried in shallow graves in the church chancel, as they were found by Colls and geophysicist Erica Utsi.
Colls’ findings, which are scheduled to be aired in a documentary Saturday on Britain’s Channel 4 television, will definitely “spark discussion, scholarly debate and controversial theories.
The team expects some Shakespeare scholars to remain skeptical despite the new evidence. For example, Michael Dobson, chair of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham, is not convinced that the grave-robbing claim has been confirmed.
Dobson’s doubts are caused mostly by the fact that there “wasn’t a huge fashion for robbing literary graves in the 18th century.” He says it would’ve been unusual for people to be interested in stealing a writer’s skull at the time of the alleged theft.
Meanwhile, Patrick Taylor, the vicar at the Holy Trinity Church, said he was also not convinced about the skull’s disappearance. Researchers do not plan to disturb the grave to find out the truth, which means we have to accept the mystery of not knowing fully what lies beneath the stone.
Image Source: Kim Faires