Richard III would have been able to afford traction treatment, Lund said. In addition, his doctors would have been well aware of the method, which was detailed in treatises on medicine and philosophy by 11th-century Persian polymath Avicenna. (Avicenna's work seems to have been influenced by Greek philosopher Hippocrates, Lund said.) These treatises, including Avicenna's theories on using traction in scoliosis treatment, would have been widely read in Medieval Europe, Lund noted.
Avicenna's treatments for back disorders also included massage techniques done in Turkish baths and herbal applications. For longer-term care, patients were likely encouraged to wear a long piece of wood or metal to straighten their spines, Lund said.
"Hippocratic medicine was based on responding carefully to the individual, so without Richard's medical records we can only make conjectures," Lund wrote. Whether the possible treatment worked is also "impossible" to definitively answer, Lund said. "Historical accounts describe him as an active fighter in battle, so he was clearly able to do strenuous physical activity. On the other hand, it seems likely that the condition was painful and would have restricted his lung capacity," Lund wrote.
Finding Richard After the king's death in battle, he was brought to Leicester and reportedly interred at the church of the Grey Friars, a location long lost to history. Even so, interest in the king led to some far-fetched grave tales about the burial's whereabouts, including one purporting the bones were thrown into the Soar River. "Other fables, equally discredited, claimed that his coffin was used as a horse-trough," Philippa Langley, a Richard III Society member, said in a statement.
Relying on historical records, University of Leicester archaeologists started digging beneath the Leicester City Council parking lot on Aug. 25. They soon found the church and a 17th-century garden marked by paving stones. Records suggest mayor of Leicester Robert Herrick built a mansion and garden on the medieval church site years after the king's death, reportedly placing in the garden a stone pillar inscribed with, "Here lies the body of Richard III sometime King of England."
Shortly thereafter, the team unearthed human remains, including both a female skeleton (possibly an early church founder) and a male skeleton with a spine curved by scoliosis. The male skeleton's skull was cleaved with a blade, and a barbed metal arrowhead was lodged among the vertebrae of the upper back.
Interest in the king has remained strong. Richard III enthusiasts, or Richardians, as they are called, have societies in the United Kingdom and the United States. The discovery of the bones of the medieval king has only swelled their passions.
"He's just such an enigmatic figure, and people are drawn to that, because there's such mystery about him," Molly McAleavey, a Denver-based member of the Richard III Foundation, one of the societies dedicated to the king, told LiveScience in March. "What was he like, really? What is the truth?"
Little bits of this truth continue to spill out from the world of archaeology and social sciences.
Follow Jeanna Bryner on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.
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