Archaeologists were excavating a cave when they found the skeleton of a man
Archaeologists excavating a cave were shocked to discover the skeleton of a man placed in an unusual cross-legged position with large stones holding his legs and arms.
A bone sample sent for radiocarbon dating indicates that he died sometime between 430 and 630 A.D., commonly referred to as the Pictish period in Scotland.
The bones were found in a cave in the Black Isle, Ross-shire, by a team of researchers based at the University of Dundee.
This is a fascinating skeleton in a remarkable state of preservation which has been expertly recovered
At least five blows were made to the man causing fractures to his skull and face.
And according to researchers, he had long wavy hair with a thick Viking beard and mild blotches around his face.
Forensic anthropologist Sue Black was able to describe in detail the extent of the attack and digitally reconstruct what he was thought to look like.
Professor Black said: "This is a fascinating skeleton in a remarkable state of preservation which has been expertly recovered.
According to the research he had long wavy hair with a thick Viking beard
"From studying his remains we learned a little about his short life but much more about his violent death.
"As you can see from the facial reconstruction he was a striking young man, but he met a very brutal end, suffering a minimum of five severe injuries to his head.
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"The first impact was by a circular cross-section implement that broke his teeth on the right side.
"The second may have been the same implement, used like a fighting stick which broke his jaw on the left.
The pictish man was found in this cave in Black isle
"The third resulted in fracturing to the back of his head as he fell from the blow to his jaw with a tremendous force possibly onto a hard object perhaps stone.
"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.
"The fifth was not in keeping with the injuries caused in the other four where a hole, larger than that caused by the previous weapon, was made in the top of the skull."
Volunteers from the university were digging to determine when the cave might have been occupied.
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It is thought that the cave was used for iron-smithing during the Pictish period.
Hearths and extensive iron-working debris indicate that the cave was selected specifically for this use, but the unexpected find of the skeleton gave the cave a completely different significance.
Excavation leader Steven Birch said: "Having specialised in prehistoric cave archaeology in Scotland for some years now, I am fascinated with the results.
Volunteers from the university were digging in the cave
"Here, we have a man who has been brutally killed, but who has been laid to rest in the cave with some consideration – placed on his back, within a dark alcove, and weighed down by beach stones.
"While we don't know why the man was killed, the placement of his remains gives us insight into the culture of those who buried him.
"Perhaps his murder was the result of interpersonal conflict; or was there a sacrificial element relating to his death?"