Was it a sword, the spike of a medieval bill or perhaps the blade of a halberd?

Whatever the piece of weaponry, it inflicted serious trauma to the left base of King Richard III's skull more than five centuries ago, likely killing the British monarch at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, according to pathologists.

King Richard III skull

The bones of Richard III were dug up in the city of Leicester in 2012, and experts have published initial data suggesting they belong to the 15th-century king, including an analysis of his curved spine and the injuries that killed him. (University of Leicester)

Forensic experts analyzing CT scans and new imaging techniques found that Richard's skeleton sustained 11 wounds "at or near the time of his death," University of Leicester Prof. Sarah Hainsworth told Sky News.

Nine of those wounds, Hainsworth said, were to the skull, and "clearly inflicted in battle."

In a paper published in the medical journal The Lancet, Hainsworth's forensics team wrote the injuries were "highly consistent with the body having been in a prone position or on its knees with the head pointing downwards."

'Stuck in the mire'

The scientists say Richard was likely still wearing armour at his death, as there were no identifying defensive wounds on his arms and hands.

Richard III portrait

A portrait of Richard III by an unknown artist from the 16th century is displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in London. (Neil Hall/Reuters)

However, the severity of the wounds to his skull suggest Richard "had either lost his helmet or it had been removed, forcibly or otherwise."

The pathologists noted that "near-contemporary accounts of the battle…suggest that Richard abandoned his horse after it became stuck in a mire and was killed while fighting his enemies."

The shape of an injury to Richard's pelvis also seems consistent with accounts of the former ruler's body being "slung over the back of a horse and suffering insults," the report said.

A more dignified reinterment ceremony is expected to take place at Leicester Cathedral in March.

The skeletal remains of Richard, who was depicted by William Shakespeare as a murderous villain, were discovered during excavation work under a Leicester parking lot in 2012.