26 June 2022 The Future is the Product of the Past

New insights into Scotland’s ‘bodies in the bog’

Fourteen bodies were found at Cramond near Edinburgh in 1975. New research suggests that two of the remains of these 14 bodies, also known as ‘bodies in the bog’, may have come from the other side of medieval Scotland.

The skeletal remains of nine adults and five infants found in the latrine of what was once a Roman bath house close to Edinburgh have fascinated archaeologists and the public alike.

Discovered in Cramond in 1975 they were originally thought to be victims of the plague or a shipwreck from the 14th century. Then radiocarbon dating showed them to be some 800 years older, dating to the 6th century, or early medieval period.

Bioarchaeological work led by the University of Aberdeen has now discovered that some of the group may have travelled across Scotland to make the Cramond area their home.

Their investigations change our understanding not only of this important site but of the mobility and connections of people across Scotland in the early medieval period, when the country was broadly divided between the Scotti in Dál Riata to the west, the Picts in most of northern Scotland and the Britons in the south.

Facial reconstruction of man who may have come from Loch Lomond (University of Aberdeen/PA)
Facial reconstruction of man who may have come from Loch Lomond (University of Aberdeen/PA)

The researchers examined the bones and teeth of the group unearthed from what was once the latrine of a bathhouse in a Roman fort, leading to them being coined ‘the bodies in the bog’.

Using isotope analyses they were able to look at the diet and origins of each of the adults in the group. Professor Kate Britton, senior author of the study, said they were surprised to discover that despite being buried in close proximity to each other – leading to assumptions that they were one family – some were brought up hundreds of miles apart.

“Food and water consumed during life leave a specific signature in the body which can be traced back to their input source, evidencing diet and mobility patterns,” she added.

“Tooth enamel, particularly from teeth which form between around three and six years of age, act like little time capsules containing chemical information about where a person grew up.

“When we examined the remains, we found six of them to bear chemical signatures consistent with what we would expect from individuals growing up in the area local to Cramond but two – those of a man and a woman – were very different.

“This suggests that they spent their childhoods somewhere else, with the analysis of the female placing her origins on the West coast.”

“The male instead had an isotopic signature more typical of the Southern Uplands, Southern Highlands or Loch Lomond area so it is likely he came to Cramond from an inland area.”

The findings, published in the Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences journal, provide one of the first insights into early medieval population mobility in Scotland.

Dr. Orsolya Czére, post-doctoral researcher and lead author of the study, added: “This is a historically elusive time period, where little may be gleaned about the lives of individuals from primary literary sources. What we do know is that it was a politically and socially tumultuous time.

Dr. Orsolya Czére examining demineralised bone collagen during the extraction process (University of Aberdeen/PA)

“In Scotland particularly, evidence is scarce and little is known about individual movement patterns and life histories. Bioarchaeological studies like this are key to providing information about personal movement in early medieval Scotland and beyond.

“It is often assumed that travel in this period would have been limited without roads like we have today and given the political divides of the time. The analysis of the burials from Cramond, along with other early medieval burial sites in Scotland, are revealing that it was not unusual to be buried far from where you had originally grown up.

“Previous studies have suggested that those buried here were of high social status, even nobility. What we can say from our new analyses was that these were well-connected individuals, with lives that brought them across the country”

“This is an important step in unravelling how these different populations of early medieval Scotland and Britain interacted.”

Despite evidence for geographical mobility, social tensions may still have been high. Several of the skeletons at Cramond indicate that some of the individuals may have met with violent ends.

Osteoarchaeologist and co-author Dr. Ange Boyle from the University of Edinburgh said: “Detailed osteological analysis of the human remains has determined that a woman and young child deposited in the Roman latrine suffered violent deaths. Blows to the skulls inflicted by a blunt object, possibly the butt end of a spear would have been rapidly fatal. This evidence provides important confirmation that the period in question was characterised by a high level of violence.”

John Lawson, the City of Edinburgh Council archaeologist, co-author and lead archaeologist on the investigations at Cramond, says the new findings further underline the importance of the Cramond site.

“This paper has been the result of fantastic collaboration between ourselves and our co-authors from Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities. The final results from the isotopic research have confirmed the initial 2015 results giving us archaeological evidence and a window into the movement of elite society in the 6th century.

“In particular it is helping us to support our belief that Cramond during this time was one of Scotland’s key political centres during this important period of turmoil and origins for the state of Scotland. Whilst it has helped us answer some questions about the individuals buried in the former Roman Fort’s Bathhouse, it has also raised more. We hope to continue to work together to bring more findings to publication as these have a significant impact on what is known about the history of Scotland and Northern Britain during the Dark Ages.”

The study was funded by Edinburgh City Council and the University of Aberdeen and research by Professor Britton and Dr. Czere is supported by the Leverhulme Trust and AHRC respectively.

University of Aberdeen

Banner
Related Post

Anatolia’s largest olive oil factory unearthed

14 January 2022

14 January 2022

A Roman-era olive oil factory has been unearthed during excavations in the İskenderun district of Hatay. It has been reported...

An intact Punic Tomb was Discovered in Malta

29 May 2021

29 May 2021

İntact a tomb dating to the Punic period was found in Tarxien. The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage has announced the...

Restoration works for ancient Arch de Triumph in Palmyra to begin

22 March 2022

22 March 2022

Restoration works of the Arch of Triumph of the Ancient City of Palmyra, which was destroyed by the terrorist organization...

Was the mystery of Noceto Vasca Votiva the water ritual?

13 June 2021

13 June 2021

The Noceto Vasca Votiva is a one-of-a-kind wood building discovered in 2005 on a tiny hill in northern Italy. The...

Hundreds of silver coins have been found near the castle of Lukov in Moravia

4 September 2021

4 September 2021

In the forest near the Southern Moravian Fortress Lukov, two members of the Society of Friends of the Lukov Fortress...

Israeli Archaeologists discover two shipwrecks filled with treasure

22 December 2021

22 December 2021

Israeli archaeologists have been discovered ancient artifacts and treasures amid the wrecks of two ships on the seafloor off the...

Archaeologists Uncover 8 Graves Dated 6,500 Years Ago in Lausanne, Swiss

30 October 2021

30 October 2021

Archaeologists have unearthed eight prehistoric tombs between 5,500 and 6,500 years old in the Swiss town of Pully. The site...

Climate Change Negatively Impacts 45 000-year-old Cave Paintings in Indonesia

13 May 2021

13 May 2021

Cave paintings from 20,000 to 50,000 years ago in Indonesia are in danger of extinction due to climate change. Indonesia...

Egyptian Pharaoh Slain in Battle Because of the Hippos

17 February 2021

17 February 2021

The mummy of Pharaoh Seqenenre Taa II, found in 1880, was re-analyzed. When it was found, the deep wounds on...

1419-year-old Islamic inscription found in Saudi Arabia

13 June 2022

13 June 2022

Saudi Arabia has announced a new archaeological discovery in Makkah. The Islamic inscription found dates back 1419 years to the...

Torrential Rain Reveal 2500-Year-old Small Bull Statue

19 March 2021

19 March 2021

After heavy rains near the ancient Olympia site, a bronze bull statue of a bull believed to be at least...

Viking Ship Burials Shrouded in Mystery on Danish Island

25 May 2021

25 May 2021

Archaeologists studying the origins and makeup of the Kalvestene burial field, a famed place in Scandinavian legend, have undertaken new...

The human remains of 29 people buried as offerings in a pre-Inca temple were found at the Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucalá excavation site

23 October 2021

23 October 2021

The human remains of 29 people buried as sacrificial offerings have been discovered in a pre-Inca temple in northern Peru....

Ancient Mesopotamians bred horse-like hybrids

17 January 2022

17 January 2022

New research finds that Mesopotamians were utilizing hybrids of domesticated donkeys and wild asses to drive their war wagons 4,300...

Excavations of Aççana Mound, the Capital of the Mukish Kingdom, Continue

16 July 2021

16 July 2021

2021 excavations have started at Aççana Höyük, the old city of Alalah, in Hatay’s Reyhanlı district. The ancient city of...

Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.