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Face of medieval Scot revealed by experts 600 years later

Known only as Skeleton 125 was among 4272 bone fragments found during Aberdeen dig.

Skeleton 125: Facial reconstruction technology.
Skeleton 125: Facial reconstruction technology. AOC Archeology Group

By Graeme Murray

The face of a medieval man has been revealed 600 years later using facial reconstruction technology.

Known only as Skeleton 125 (SK125), he was among 60 entire skeletons and 4272 human bone fragments found during the development of Aberdeen Art Gallery.

The discovery prompted work to be suspended to allow archaeological investigations.

After extensive post-excavation research, AOC Archaeology Group has reconstructed the find and concluded he was a 46-year-old man.

Between 5ft 2in and 5ft 5in, archaeologists say was shorter than the average male for the later medieval period. And suffered extensive dental disease, tooth loss, gum disease, cavities and a chronic abscess.

Dr Paula Milburn, of AOC Archaeology Group, explained: "SK 125 has provided us with a first fascinating glimpse of one of the people buried on the site of Aberdeen Art Gallery over 600 years ago.

"The on-going post-excavation work is examining the remains in detail and will provide us with amazing information on the kind of people buried here, including their ages, gender, health and lifestyles."

Dig: AOC Archeology Group made the discovery.
Dig: AOC Archeology Group made the discovery.

The man displayed the effects of age, with degenerative joint disease found in the middle and lower back. 

Research also indicated he was not local to Aberdeen but perhaps spent his childhood in the north-west Highlands or Outer Hebrides.

Dr Millburn said data which can reveal residence later in life indicates "he may have spent the last years of his life in or around Aberdeen."

Of the 60 skeletons, discovered, 56 were adults, one was a 13-year-old adolescent and three were children aged six, eight and 11.

The discovery found 26 men and six women aged from 18 to 25 through to 46 years and older.

The remains provided evidence of a strenuous, physically active lifestyle with high rates of dental disease.

Artefacts including dress accessories, personal ornaments,and coffin wood and fittings were also recovered plus animal bones, fragments of pottery and glass.

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council's cultural spokeswoman, said: "The incredible find on the site and the amazing painstaking research of Dr Milburn and her team is another wonderful chapter in the history of Aberdeen Art Gallery which enters its latest phase with the much-anticipated re-opening on 2 November".

The Art Gallery was built in 1885 on the site of the former Blackfriars Dominican Friary, which is thought to have been founded between AD1222-1249.

Excavations outside the gallery uncovered a red brick vault containing three Victorian coffins and a mass of separate bones and human remains.

Inside excavations revealed in situ burials including the 60 skeletons and the remainder of the human bones.

SK125 was recovered from the lowest level of the burials, with other skeletons dated to the period 1050 to 1410.

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