William Shakespeare's grave has been shrouded in mystery for years. Researchers have determined that the late playwright's skull was 'probably stolen' over 200 years ago. Using state-of-the-art ground-penetrating radar, the team from Staffordshire University went over Shakespeare's grave site at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford with a fine-tooth comb in the hopes of confirming or denying a news report from the 19th century which claimed that his skull had been stolen from its final resting place over eight decades earlier.
The results of the scans suggested that the story might have actually been true after all.
"We have Shakespeare's burial with an odd disturbance at the head end and we have a story that suggests that at some point in history someone's come in and taken the skull of Shakespeare," said Archaeologist Kevin Colls. "It's very, very convincing to me that his skull isn't at Holy Trinity at all."
Shakespeare's grave has long remained a subject of debate among historians, not least because the enigmatic headstone does not bear his name at all but instead reads:
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.
As well as the possible missing skull, the scans also revealed that the grave was larger than previously thought and that the body had been buried in a shroud rather than inside a coffin.
"The amazing project team, using state-of-the-art equipment, has produced astonishing results which are much better than I dared hoped for," said Colls. "These results will undoubtedly spark discussion, scholarly debate and controversial theories for years to come."
"Even now, thinking of the findings sends shivers down my spine."