Archaeologists who got permission to scan Shakespeare's grave for the first time believe that the Bard’s skull could be missing from his tomb in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.
A team of experts, led by Staffordshire University archaeologist Kevin Colls, used ground-penetrating radar to explore the playwright's tomb.
The researchers found that Shakespeare's burial “had an odd disturbance at the head end”. The findings support a story that suggests that at some point in history robbers took away Shakespeare skull.
"It's very, very convincing to me that his skull isn’t at Holy Trinity at all," Colls said in a statement.
For decades, all requests to perform archaeology at the grave have been turned down by Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.
But, in a world first, they have allowed this scan, which enabled investigation below ground-level without disturbing the hallowed site.
Historians and archaeologists have long argued over Shakespeare's final resting place, questioning the size of the stone, which is far too short for an adult burial, and which carries no name, only a chilling curse:Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
"Holy Trinity Church was pleased to be able to cooperate with this non-intrusive research into Shakespeare's grave. We now know much more about how Shakespeare was buried and the structure that lies underneath his ledger stone,” Holy Trinity's vicar, Patrick Taylor, said.
"We are not convinced, however, that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that his skull has been taken. We intend to continue to respect the sanctity of his grave, in accordance with Shakespeare's wishes, and not allow it to be disturbed. We shall have to live with the mystery of not knowing fully what lies beneath the stone," Taylor noted.
Last year a the head of legendary director F. W. Murnau was stolen from his grave in Berlin. He died in 1931.