Bosworth Battlefield Found

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Glenn Foard (right) and Steven A. Walton discussing finds from BosworthAt an international press conference on Wednesday, 28 October, Glenn Foard, Visiting Lecturer at the Institute for Medieval Studies, revealed finds of international archaeological significance.

Dr Foard led the team which discovered the location of the battle of Bosworth, where Henry Tudor defeated Richard III on 22 August 1485 to become Henry VII. The archaeological survey of the battlefield has so far produced 22 lead and lead-composite roundshot from artillery and bullets fired from early guns of different sizes - more than all the roundshot so far recorded from other battlefields of the 15th and 16th century in Europe combined.

The project was commissioned by Leicestershire County Council, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further assistance has been provided from the University of Leeds, Cranfield University and the Royal Armouries.

The combined evidence proves that the battle was fought in the area between the villages of Dadlington, Shenton, Upton, and Stoke Golding - a location not previously suggested, and about 2 miles from the award-winning visitor's center on Ambion Hill. The exact location – currently withheld to prevent looting of the site - is expected to be released during a conference at Leicester in February 2010.

The methodology which has been successfully used at Bosworth has been articulated through an English Heritage-funded project undertaken at Leeds, which will appear in print next year in a monograph by Glenn Foard and Richard Morris, Professor for Research in the Historic Environment at the Institute for Medieval Studies. The Origins of Firepower Research Group is co-ordinated by Prof. Steven A. Walton, Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the Institute, and Axel E. W. Müller, Director of the International Medieval Congress at the Institute, who were both at the Press Conference, and helped put these historic finds into context.

The artillery roundshot recovered from the battlefield ranged from 25-65mm in diameter, with one exceptionally large ball measuring at 93mm in diameter and weighing in at 7.2kg. The 22 shot suggest that at least 6 and perhaps as many as at least 12 cannon were involved in the action. Although handguns and hand cannon firing balls up to as much as 30mm had become commonplace in European armies by the late 15th century, the discovery of shot larger than that proves that Bosworth is the first recorded battle in England to use mobile artillery pieces. Historical documents only indicate that Richard III had artillery, though Henry may well also have had pieces in his army. That one or both sides recognized the utility of artillery in a mobile field army is quite important, as the so-called 'artillery revolution' is typically seen to be a 16th century phenomenon.

The application of gunpowder weaponry to the battlefield transformed the nature of warfare and proved a major influence in defining the character of the modern world. The unique finds at Bosworth show the potential of archaeology to contribute to our understanding of origins of firepower - a story which the Origin of Firepower Research Group has been formed to tell.

Further discussion about the input of the finds on research of early firepower in the development of warfare will continue at a symposium held at the University of Leeds on 5 November 2009. For more details on the symposium see http://www.leeds.ac.uk/ims/news/originssymposium.html.

For more details on the Bosworth finds see:

http://www.bosworthbattlefield.com/battle/archaeology/battlefield.htm

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6894702.ece

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/8329894.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/8329251.stm

http://itn.co.uk/47c195262c458afaf5995efb546e7747.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/oct/28/battle-bosworth-dig-leicestershire