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Staring into the reconstructed face of a seventeenth century Scottish soldier

a computerised reconstructed face of a man with brown eyes and wispy auburn hair

© Face Lab LJMU

New digital facial reconstruction reveals the face of one of the Seventeenth Century Scottish soldiers found at Palace Green in Durham in 2013

This is the face of one of the Seventeenth Century Scottish soldiers who was imprisoned and died in Durham following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650.

The young Scottish warrior, wearing a blue bonnet of the period, has been revealed through a remarkable new digital reconstruction courtesy of Liverpool John Moores University’s FaceLab, which specialises in the reconstruction of faces for archaeological and forensic purposes.

Their work has included some of the best-known facial reconstructions of recent years, including Robert the Bruce, Richard III and St Nicholas.

The images and video, released by Durham University, have been created from the skull of one of the skeletons, known as Skeleton 22, found in Durham in November 2013.

a photo of a skeleton in the ground and a hand brushing away the soil

Archaeological excavation of one of the 17 century skeletons discovered in Durham City UNESCO World Heritage Site, UK. © North News and Pictures

a photo of a lower part of a skull

Pipe-smoking wear in the teeth of a young adult male aged 18-25 years old. © Jeff Veitch, Durham University

a computer photo of reconstructed skin and bone over a face

Skull muscles and skin. © Face Lab LJMU

One of the most brutal and short battles of the Seventeenth Century civil wars, the aftermath of the Battle of Dunbar saw thousands of soldiers marched over 100 miles from the South East of Scotland to Durham in North East England. Around 3,000 soldiers were imprisoned in Durham Cathedral and Castle, at a time when the Cathedral was empty and abandoned.

Professor Chris Gerrard, of Durham University’s Department of Archaeology, explained how, following their discovery in 2013, archaeologists have “continued to conduct research on the remains, using a host of modern archaeological techniques” to help them learn as much as possible about the Scottish soldiers.

“To complement this work we asked experts at FaceLab to create a digital reconstruction of one of the skulls,” he added. “The resulting image is a poignant opportunity to come face to face with a young man who lived and died over 300 years ago.”

The process of developing the reconstruction included careful re-assembly of the skull to allow for a detailed digital scan to be undertaken to build up the facial features. A previously unidentified facial scar on the soldier was identified through the scanning process and has been included in the final image.

The team used the very latest techniques developed by Face Lab including a 3D craniofacial depiction system with digital modelling software and facial and anatomical datasets.

These, says Facelab’s Professor Caroline Wilkinson, “can provide the most accurate and lifelike images of an array of fascinating archaeological and forensic art depictions”.

“In this case, our collaboration with Durham University enabled us to draw on scans and data to create the most accurate and lifelike image possible to enable a true glimpse into the past of this Scottish soldier and how his life had been lived.”

a photo of skeletal remains laid out on a table

Dr Anwen Caffell of Durham University with some of the remains of the 17th century Scottish soldiers found in Durham City’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, UK. North News and Pictures

side vie of a reconstructed skeleton showing skin and muscles

Side view of the muscles and skin. © Face Lab, LJMU

a photo of bones laid out on a table

Some of the remains of the 17th century Scottish soldiers found in Durham City’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, UK. © North News and Pictures

Previous analysis of Skeleton 22, led by experts at Durham University, has already revealed that he was aged between 18 and 25 when he died, had suffered periods of poor nutrition during childhood and had lived in South West Scotland during the 1630s.

“Analysis of the dental calculus has revealed a lot about the conditions in which this man, known to us only as ‘Skeleton 22’, grew up,” added Professor Gerrard.

“This information combined with the digital facial reconstruction gives us a remarkable, and privileged, glimpse into this individual’s past.”

The remains of the Scottish soldiers were originally discovered in November 2013 on Palace Green, on Durham City’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Of those who survived their imprisonment in Durham, some were transported to areas including Massachusetts and Maine, USA where they worked as indentured servants in ironworks and sawmills.

Others were employed locally in coal mines, at salt pans and as weavers whilst others were sent to King’s Lynn to help with drainage projects on the Fens. Some soldiers were sent to France to fight or crossed the Atlantic to places such as Barbados.

Watch the video:

In 2018 Durham University will host an exhibition about the Scottish Soldiers and the archaeological research that has helped uncover their story. Bodies of Evidence: How Science Unearthed Durham’s Dark Secret will be held at the University’s Palace Green Library, which is part of the complex of buildings where the remains were found in 2013. For further information visit www.durham.ac.uk/scottishsoldiers


Durham Castle

Durham, County Durham

Sitting at the heart of Durham's World Heritage site and occupied continuously since the 11th century, the Castle is now home to the students of University College, part of Durham University. Visits to Durham Castle are by guided tour only. Tours are led by our guides who explain the history…

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