Shakespeare’s skull is missing
A recent scan of William Shakespeare grave seems to confirm an old, strange rumor: Shakespeare’s skull is missing.
For hundreds of years, there have been strange stories and rumors that Shakespeare’s skull was removed from his grave, and is somewhere out in the world, possibly in a hidden, private collection. The stories date back to at least 1879, when The Argosy magazine printed a story blaming grave robbers from the previous century for digging up the playwright.
The exact reason for the theft isn’t clear, but the skull of one of the most famous writers of all time would make for an interesting centerpiece in a historical museum with a touch of the macabre. The difference between a mummified corpse in a museum and the skull of Shakespeare isn’t all that great, but if the skull is in a private collection, it will likely remain hidden – or risk the wrath of the Bard’s fans (not to mention the English government).
The radar scan was conducted by a team of archaeologists led by Kevin Colls from Staffordshire University, and marks the first time Shakespeare’s grave has been examined in such a way. The results of the scan confirmed that there was interference at some point.
“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,” Colls said.
“It’s very very convincing to me that his skull isn’t at Holy Trinity at all.”
This April marks the four hundredth anniversary of the death of Shakespeare. The author died on April 23, 1616, and shortly after was buried at the Church of the Holy Trinity in a grave that does not display his name, but does feature a curse:
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 archaeologists also investigated – and refuted – another unsubstantiated claim that Shakespeare’s skull was actually located in a sealed crypt 15 miles away in another church. The team did find a skull, but determined that it belonged to a 70-year old woman.
The scan was conducted in a non-invasive way, and the results will be broadcast as part of a TV documentary set to air in the UK later this week.