In 1879, an unconfirmed report in the press claimed that William Shakespeare’s skull was stolen from his shallow grave by trophy hunters 85 years earlier. Now, a high-tech radar investigation into the Bard’s grave suggests that the story is true.
The Channel 4 documentary Secret History: Shakespeare’s Tomb, follows a team as they perform a ground-penetrating radar scan on the grave at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.
They found evidence of “a mysterious and significant repair to the head end of William Shakespeare’s grave”. The archaeologists’ theory is that the grave was disturbed previously, causing the floor to sink and needing repair.
Kevin Colls, the archaeologist who leads the team, says 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.”
It is not the only startling finding from the radar examination, which has discovered that Shakespeare and his family are buried in a shallow grave under the church floor, rather than the large family vault where their bodies were thought to have been laid. The playwright, along with his wife Anne Hathaway and other members of the family are buried less than a metre below ground.