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Hey, where is Shakespeare’s head? – Radar survey confirms that the author’s skull was once stolen …

Ian Harvey

Despite the fact that an inscription on William Shakespeare’s grave calls for a curse upon the miscreant who wishes to remove Bard’s bones, there is a long-held conspiracy of Shakespeare’s head being stolen by thieves. The team of archaeologists have now come up with the scientific evidence strengthening the claims of Skull robbery.

Archaeologists scanned the ground using the modern GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) technology that could see objects deep underground. The site has been regarded and revered as the writer’s final resting place for a long time now. The team was able to create the image of the remains buried underground, and found out that skull of the writer was not present. The finding has triggered a controversial debate, long buried in the conspiracy cabinet.



The finding of the survey conducted at the Holy Trinity Church featured in a Channel 4 documentary, coinciding with 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.The study was led by Kevin Colls at the Holy Trinity church in in Stratford-upon-Avon where Shakespeare was believed to have been buried. Colls said that their discovery has apparently given the theory of skull theft authenticity and certainly some life. It has long been believed by people, some of them accomplished historians, that Bard’s head was stolen as a trophy in the year 1794.


Shakespeare's funerary monument, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford Upon Avon, England source
Shakespeare’s funerary monument, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford Upon Avon, England source

The custodian of the grave allowed the survey to take place, since it did not include any digging and excavation, which in their view has the potential to damage the site. However, not everyone is convinced of the outcome, especially those guarding Shakespeare’s gravesite. Historians suggest the hesitation is actually a measure to stop any further probing from countless historians, considering Shakespeare’s fame and calibre, in order to avoid any damage to the site.


The wider context of the memorial, above the graves of Shakespeare and his wife.Source
The wider context of the memorial, above the graves of Shakespeare and his wife.Source

The survey carried out by the geophysicist Erica Utsi, says Mr Collls, also unveiled some other facts about the burial site. Team also found out that the notion that Shakespeare’ wife Anne Hathaway and some other close family members were all buried in one single vault is far from the truth. The results of GPR scanning revealed that all of them were buried individually. Another interesting fact that emerged from the study was the humble burial of the celebrated writer. Researchers did not find any traces of metal, indicating that Shakespeare must have been buried in a simple shroud instead of a coffin.


William Shakespeare's tomb.Source
William Shakespeare’s tomb.Source


The conspiracy theory surrounding Shakespeare’s grave is almost two centuries old, and no one could actually prove the theorists wrong. The whole affair surfaced as a result of a publication first appeared in 1879, claiming the theft of Shakespeare’s head by some petty trophy hunters with the aid of a professional doctor in the year 1794. And that the skull kept in a vault under the Sheldon Chapel in Beoley is actually Bard’s head. However Coll’s team carried out a forensic anthropological analysis of the skull and found out that the skull belonged to a 70 year female and had no connection to Shakespeare.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News