Category Archives: SCOTLAND

Teenager’s Bones Recovered from Scottish Cave

Archaeologists find teenager’s bones in ‘Massacre Cave’ where up to 400 members of Scottish MacDonald clan were wiped out in 16th Century feud with rival MacLeods

Around 400 members of the MacDonald clan were believed to have been suffocated in the cave (pictured) in 1577 after the MacLeods lit a fire outside the small entrance, filling the cave with smoke
Around 400 members of the MacDonald clan were believed to have been suffocated in the cave (pictured) in 1577 after the MacLeods lit a fire outside the small entrance, filling the cave with smoke

Archaeologists have confirmed that bones found at Massacre Cave on Eigg are those of a teenager.

Tourists discovered in the cave about 50 bones, the scene of last year’s mass killing of Macdonald clan members in the late 16th century. The bones dated between 1430 and 1620 were suggested by initial tests, potentially placing them at the time of the massacre that wiped out almost the entire population of the island.

Dr. Kirsty Owen, senior archaeology manager at Historic Environment Scotland, said further analysis has now confirmed the bones belonged to a single skeleton of an adolescent aged under 16.

It has not been possible to determine their sex or stature, Dr. Owen added.

Further tests are to be carried out at Bradford University to shed more light on the diet and lifestyle of the person whose remains have been found.

Results of a post-excavation analysis carried out at the cave are now being finalized with further radio-carbon dates from materials due soon.HES plans to return the remains to Eigg once all investigations have been completed.

Dr. Owen added: “When the post-excavation analysis has been completed we will discuss what happens next with the community on Eigg. The decision will be made jointly with them.”

Police were called to the cave, also known as Francis Cave, last October following the discovery of the remains.No proactive searches have been made for further remain given the cave is now treated as a war grave.

The massacre on the island occurred around 1577, Up to 400 Macdonalds is said to have been killed by their Macleod rivals in one of Scotland’s most chilling episodes of clan warfare.

The feud between the two clans is thought to have wiped out almost the entire population of the island. Pictured above, a drawing of feuding clans in the 1600s.

According to accounts, the murders were carried out after 3 young Macleod men were expelled from Eigg and tied up on their boats after seemingly harassing a number of local girls.

After the men returned to the Macleod seat of power at Dunvegan on Skye, retaliation was planned with the clan organising a trip to EiggThe Macdonalds, aware of the approaching Macleods, hid in a large cave, now known as Massacre Cave, in the south of the island for some time.

The Macleods then lit a large fire of turf and ferns at the entrance of the cave with the smoke suffocating those insides. Only one family managed to escape, it is said.

Archaeologists at Bradford University now hope to find out more about the diet and lifestyle of occupants of the island at the time of the massacre before the bones are returned

Oldest Pictish Fort Uncovered in Scotland

Oldest Pictish Fort Uncovered in Scotland

Archaeologists working at the site of Scotland’s largest Pictish fort have made an “incredible” discovery after unearthing part of the power center’s defensive wall.

The discovery has been made at Burghead in Moray, the largest known fort of its kind in northern Britain which is believed to have been occupied by the elite of Pictish society more than 1,000 years ago.

The stretch of defensive wall discovered by archaeologists at the site in Burghead
The stretch of defensive wall discovered by archaeologists at the site in Burghead

Around 10 feet of rampart wall has been unearthed with preserved pieces of timber lacing, which strengthens the structure, also found. It is now known that the wall dates to the 8th Century – putting it right at the heart of the Pictish period.

Dr. Gordon Noble, head of archaeology at Aberdeen University, who is leading the work at Burghead said it was an “incredible” find. He added: “What a sight to see the rampart revealed for the first time in over 1000 years.“It’s very impressive.

Probably one of the best-preserved ramparts of this type.“It really reinforces the huge investment in resources that was undertaken to construct the fort at Burghead.

The timber lacing is one of the best preserved in Europe.“Unfortunately, it is also under huge threat from coastal erosion with meters lost to the sea in the last few decades.

The Wallface now stands around a meter from an active erosion face.“Historic Environment Scotland is providing funding to help record as much as we can before the erosion gets worse.”

It is believed the site at Burghead may been one of the most important elite settlements of the Kingdom of Fortriu which was the Pictish overkingship from the 7th century onwards.

Dr. Noble, who has led excavations at Burghead since 2015, said the picture of life at the fort and village was “getting clearer” but that a lot of work still needed to be done.“We now know a little about the architecture of the buildings inside, but not how many there were and need to know more about the phasing of the site,” he added.

The stretch of the wall now unearthed at Burghead contains several beam slots that supported the wooden structure of the fort.Dr. Noble said “abundant charcoal” had been recovered during the excavation indicating that the fort was destroyed by fire.

It has long been thought the fort was razed to the ground around the time Vikings were launching raids along the Moray coast. However, the act of destruction has actually preserved some of the wooden remains with charcoal deposits helping to date the structure more accurately.

Important finds made at the site include the Burghead Bull carvings and an underground well, both which were found in the 1800sIt was thought that much of the site was destroyed when a new town was built on the site of the fort in the 19th Century but Dr. Noble and colleagues have since found remains of a Pictish longhouse, coins, and pottery.

Uncovered Viking Funeral Ship In Scotland Contains Treasure Trove Of Ancient Relics

Uncovered Viking Funeral Ship In Scotland Contains Treasure Trove Of Ancient Relics

A boat which for 1,000 years served as the grave of a high-status Viking has revealed some of its secrets, according to the first detailed report of the iconic discovery.

The tomb, originally unearthed in 2011 on the Ardnamurchan peninsula in western Scotland, contained a rich assemblage of grave goods. It represents the first undisturbed Viking boat burial found on the British mainland.

Viking boat burials have been documented in Scandinavian countries, but are fairly rare. They involve using the boat as a coffin for the body. Archaeologists estimate the boat used to bury the deceased dates back to the late 9th or early 10th century, at a time when Vikings were still exploring and trading along the British Isles.

An in-depth investigation, published in the journal Antiquity, has revealed much of the Viking funerary rite involved in the burial at this remote part of Scotland. However, some mystery remains. The ship rotted into the soil long ago, like the bones of the interred individual.

Only two teeth (both molars) remain of the human. The absence of a body which researchers can biologically sex might raise the compelling, albeit remote, possibility that it was a female boat grave.

“The burial is probably that of a man — but as we only have the two teeth surviving, it is impossible to be definitive. So it is possible, but not likely, that this was the burial of a woman,” Oliver Harris, co-director of the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project (ATP) at the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, told Seeker.

Some finds recovered from the grave (clockwise from the top left): broad-bladed axe, shield boss, ringed pin and hammer and tongs.
Some finds recovered from the grave (clockwise from the top left): broad-bladed axe, shield boss, ringed pin and hammer and tongs.

The funerary rite began with cutting a boat-shaped depression into a natural mound of small, rounded beach stones. The boat was then inserted and the body was placed inside, surrounded by a variety of artifacts including a sword, an axe, a drinking horn vessel, a shield boss, a ladle, a sickle, and a ringed pin.

“There is nothing female per se in the grave, though of course there are lots of objects — sickle, the ladle, the knife, the ringed pin — that are not male either,” Harris said.

The grave was filled to the top with stones which may have been taken from a nearby Neolithic burial cairn (a human-made pile of stones).”The final artifacts found in the boat, the spear and shield boss, were higher in the burial, deposited as part of the closure of the monument,” the researchers wrote.

The spearhead was deliberately broken before being deposited, indicating some form of ritual associated with the burial process. The archaeologists also recovered 213 of the boat’s rivets. From the outline of the boat impressed into the soil, they established the boat measured 16 feet in length and would have been a small rowing boat, probably accompanying a larger ship.

Isotopic analysis of the teeth suggests the deceased likely grew up in Scandinavia. It also showed that between the age of 3 and 5 the person’s diet switched for about a year from meat to fish, an unusual food supply at that time.”The switch in the diet probably shows there was some shortage of food for a period of time leading people to eat more fish,” Harris said.

Most importantly, the Viking boat burial reveals the growing relationship between Scotland and the Viking world at that time. It brings together multiple geographic connections, as shown by the grave goods.

A whetstone, used to cut and sharpen tools, was made from a rock that is found in Norway, while the bronze ring pin, likely used to fasten a burial cloak or shroud, appears to come from Ireland.”The burial evokes the mundane and the exotic, past and present, as well as local, national and international identities,” the researchers wrote.

According to Colleen Batey, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Glasgow, the grave goods within the find are very significant.”A sword with shield boss, spearhead and ax are a complete weapon set — which is not so common. And the ladle is an exceptional and uncommon find,” she told Seeker. She added that there is nothing in the burial boat which would support the identification of the interred individual being a female.

However, Viking female boat burials have been excavated in the past. Batey has just published details about a boat grave from Shetland, in the Scottish Islands, which may well have been for a female, or at least one of the occupants may have been a woman, buried with her oval brooch.

One of the most famous Viking ship burials was excavated in 1945 in the Isle of Man at Balladoole. This boat burial contained a man, as well as a woman who had been sacrificed in order to be added to the grave.

Source: allthatsinteresting