The skull of William Shakespeare is in the center of a mystery today, as it appears the famous playwright’s skull was likely stolen. Back in 1879 a magazine offered the theory that Shakespeare’s skull had been taken as a trophy by grave looters. That claim, which was published in The Argosy Magazine centuries ago, was debunked through time.
The Raw Story reports on March 24 that a new documentary investigating the grave of Shakespeare may show that original rumored theory has some truth in it. The documentary marks the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death and with permission of the church where Shakespeare’s body is buried, a group of archeologists embarked on a non-invasive investigation. Using the modern imaging technology available today, the team found all sorts of things about Shakespeare’s burial site, which is in a shallow grave below the floor of the church.
Kevin Colls of Staffordshire University led the investigation into Shakespeare’s grave, which lies beneath Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. This intriguing investigation offered up some probable answers to centuries-old mysteries by using ground penetrating radar, as seen in the video above.
With the use of ground-penetrating radar over the grave of Shakespeare, they came across some interesting finds. They’ve discovered what looks to be a repair job at the head end of the burial site for Shakespeare. This is indicative of a previous disturbance to the grave, reports News Week. Colls reports in the documentary:
“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. It’s very, very convincing to me that his skull isn’t at Holy Trinity at all.”
With the possibility that Shakespeare’s skull is missing now seeming very real, Colls and his team decided to follow up on another legend that has been passed down through the ages. This rumor indicated that Shakespeare’s skull was sealed in a crypt inside St. Leonard’s church in Worcestershire. This church is about 15 miles away from his gravesite under the Holy Trinity Church.
Colls and his team discovered that the skull that is held in a crypt at St. Leonard’s Church belongs to an unknown female who was about 70 years-old when she died. This information was the result of a forensic anthropological survey conducted by Colls and his team.
Back at Shakespeare’s gravesite, the team discovered that Shakespeare and his wife were not buried in a family crypt below the ground, which was the popular thought. Instead the team discovered they were in a shallow grave, just about 3 feet deep. The ground penetrating radar did not find any metal, such as nails that you would expect to find in a coffin.
This indicated to Colls and his team that Shakespeare’s body was wrapped in a shroud and then buried, rather than placing him in a coffin. Colls said about the investigation:
“It was a great honor to be the first researcher to be given permission to undertake non-invasive archaeological investigations at the grave of William Shakespeare. The amazing project team…has produced astonishing results which are much better than I dared hoped for, and these results will undoubtedly spark discussion, scholarly debate and controversial theories for years to come. Colls also said, “Even now, thinking of the findings sends shivers down my spine.”
The documentary called “Secret History: Shakespeare’s Tomb” will air on Saturday night at 8 p.m. on U.K.’s Channel 4. The question now is where is Shakespeare’s skull? Is it sitting on a mantle someplace today with a story spun around it?