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Update on Scotland’s 1,500-Year-Old Blair Atholl Man

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND—Chemical analysis of the bones and teeth of the so-called Blair Atholl Man indicate that he spent his childhood on Scotland’s western coast, the islands of the western Hebrides, or even in Ireland before he died at about the age of 45 and was buried in the Pictish style near Blair Atholl in the Scottish Highlands, according to a Live Science report. A study of collagen extracted from a rib fragment indicates he dined on pork, freshwater fish, and waterfowl in the last five to ten years of his life. This diet is similar to that observed in other residents of early medieval Scotland, said Orsolya Czére of the University of Aberdeen. The amount of sulfur in the collagen, however, suggests he lived much of his life along the coast, and probably hadn’t been in the Highlands for very long before his death, Czére added. “What we can say is that Blair Atholl Man was born in a more remote geographical area that was not part of Pictland, yet he moved to this region and was buried according to funerary customs practiced by the Picts,” said Kate Britton of the University of Aberdeen. She explained that traveling such long distances may not have been unusual in early medieval Scotland. To read about a silver hoard discovered in northeast Scotland, go to "Lost and Found (Again)."

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