LEICESTER, England — Archaeologists in England, just a few years removed from the stunning discovery of the skeleton of King Richard III, have also unearthed the grave of a woman believed to be among the highest figures of the church during her time.
According to the Telegraph in England, archaeologists at Leicester University found a lead coffin near the site of Richard III’s grave. Inside the coffin they reportedly found the remains of an elderly woman whom they believed to be so revered by the church, those who prayed for her were promised 20 days off purgatory.
The archaeologists believe the woman’s identity to be Emma Holt, though there were no markings to hint at the corpse’s identity, the Telegraph reports.
According to the Telegraph, if the body was indeed Holt’s, it was buried around 1250 A.D. The Telegraph reported that the Bishop of Lincoln during Holt’s time granted 20 days off purgatory for those who prayed to the woman.
Despite her high status, details on Holt remain scarce. “We know little about her and a lack of fundamental information, such as her age at death, what she did for a living, what she looked like or where in the church she was buried,” Mathew Morris, Grey Friars site director and lead archaeologist from the University of Leicester, told the Telegraph.
The body believed to be Holt’s was in 1 of 10 graves discovered at Grey Friars friary in Leicester — including that of King Richard III, the Telegraph reported. Six of the graves found “were left undisturbed.”
The coffin was reportedly initially discovered in August 2013, one year after the remains of Richard III were unearthed in a parking lot.
Morris told the Telegraph that Holt has no known descendants who could provide DNA samples for testing. So when it comes to the certainty of identifying her and some of the other skeletons found, Morris said, “Sadly, they will forever remain anonymous.”
But the lead coffin, with an inlaid crucifix, as well as the location of her burial in the friary’s church meant that she had a special significance to the holy Catholic order, according to the Telegraph.