In 2016, a team of investigators with the Rosemarkie Caves Project were searching along the coast of the Black Isle, far up the the Scottish Highlands, when they found something both terrifying and fascinating: The perfectly intact skeleton of a young man with a gaping hole in his skull. Had they just wandered onto the site of an ancient murder victim?
According to The Sun:
“Forensic anthropologists from Dundee University were able to determine that he died with five severe fractures to his head that may have been caused by being repeatedly hit with a weapon.
“The man’s teeth were broke, his jaw was fractured and at one point the weapon would have been driven straight through the front of his skull right to the back as he lay on the ground.”
The remains, according to Newsweek, were dated to between 430 CE and 630 CE. Researchers also determined the man had died at about age 30, was 5 foot 6 inches tall, and built like “a rugby player,” i.e. quite big and strong.
To get a better idea what the man had looked like while alive, the process of facial reconstruction began. A picture soon emerged even though only bones remained: The man had long hair and a beard:
And yet, a mystery remained: How had the man died, and why had he been buried the way he was?
More research led the team to determine the man had been well-fed and cared for while alive, even eating a high protein diet, which led them to another conclusion. Simon Gunn, founder of the project remarked:
“It’s rather peculiar that he had a very high-protein diet throughout his life, to the extent that it’s as if he had been eating nothing but suckling pigs.
“He was a bit special, that could be royalty or a chieftain.
“Obviously he had a rather brutal death, but he was buried quite carefully in that cave.”
Royalty? But why was he killed so brutally? One mystery was replaced by another.
Turning to forensics, the team began investigating yet again, seeking answers:
“Forensic anthropologist Dame Sue Black, who studied the remains, said in a statement previously released by the University of Dundee: ‘From studying his remains, we learned a little about his short life but much more about his violent death…he was a striking young man, but he met a very brutal end, suffering a minimum of five severe injuries to his head.’
“Black’s team believe the man suffered blows that injured his teeth, jaw and the back of his head. She added: ‘The fourth impact was intended to end his life as probably the same weapon was driven through his skull from one side and out the other as he lay on the ground.'”
Sadly, answers remain elusive, with the motive for the death of “Pictish Man” (as researchers dubbed him) still unknown. All that can be surmised is that his burial in the cave might have had significance:
“The cave he was buried in may represent an ‘entrance to the underworld.’ Piles of bones found near his body suggest there was some kind of feast after his death.”
The Rosemarkie Caves Project continues, but it seems doubtful it will uncover anything quite as shocking and mysterious as the Pictish Man.
Here’s more on how the man’s face was reconstructed:
Featured Image Via YouTube Screenshot