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Scientists Revisit Medieval Gravesite in Highland Scotland

Monday, October 19, 2020

PORTMAHOMACK, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that DNA analysis has determined the relationships shared by multiple people whose remains were found in a church yard in Highland Scotland in 1997. Known as the “Six-Headed Chief” burial, the grave included the bones of a man with a fatal sword wound to the skull; four additional skulls; and the skeleton of a second man thought to have been added to the grave at a later date. The bones of a third man buried in a nearby grave were also analyzed. The study suggests that the grave occupants belonged to members of the same family who lived between the late thirteenth and the early fifteenth centuries, except for one of the skulls, dated to sometime between the eighth and tenth centuries, which might have been kept by the family as the treasured relic of a Pictish monk. The two complete men’s skeletons from the grave are thought to have belonged to first cousins once removed. One of the skulls belonged to a woman who was the mother of the second man whose remains were placed in the grave. The remaining two skulls belonged to a father and son, who were grandfather and father to this same man, while the separate grave is thought to hold the remains of his son. To read about new research on a 4,800-year-old passage grave on the Scottish island of Orkney, go to "Around the World: Scotland."

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