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Iron Age grave containing father and son weavers.

Together for two millennia: Iron Age burial containing father and son weavers unearthed in Scotland

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A father and son buried together about 2,000 years ago in Linlithgow, Scotland, have been unearthed in the course of an archaeological dig. Archaeologists excavating the tomb say the pair were wealthy artisan weavers.

The two men, aged about 20 and 40, died at different times but were placed together in a stone tomb, a cist, near the present site of the House of the Binns, a National Trust for Scotland site. Dating shows the father died between 92 BC and 65 AD, while scientists estimate the son died some time later, around 44 BC to 79 AD.

View of the Firth of Forth, Blackness Castle and the village of Charleston photographed from the grounds of the House of the Binns.

View of the Firth of Forth, Blackness Castle and the village of Charleston photographed from the grounds of the House of the Binns. (Paul Taylor/Wikimedia Commons)

Both men were about 5 feet 5 inches (165 cm) tall, and their feet were turned inward in a condition colloquially called pigeon-toed. The condition was caused by a defective muscle attachment in the upper leg that caused their legs to turn inward and walk with the toes of each foot pointing toward one another.

Archaeologist Daniel Rhodes with the National Trust for Scotland called the find “exciting in its rarity,” said an article at The Ediburgh News website.

“The first skeleton was an adult male, aged around 40 years, with wear on his teeth which suggests he may have been a weaver,” the paper quoted Rhodes as saying. “The younger man was around 20 years old. They were intentionally buried in the same place and when you look at the date range they could be father and son. The younger man also suffered from worn teeth, and they both shared the same family leg deformity. There is no sign of disease so it probably didn’t cause severe damage or disability in life, but they may have been pigeon-toed.”

The older man had an oval iron brooch clutched to his chest. It had some thread from his clothing, a rare find.


The land around the House of the Binns has been inhabited for many centuries that go back before the establishment of the house in the 17 th century. Local legend has that it was the site of a fort. It is now the site of ongoing archaeological digs.

The House of the Binns, a laird’s house that overlooks the Firth of Forth, dates to the 1600s. For 400 years it has been the home of the Dalyell family, but they donated the house and surrounding parks to the National Trust for Scotland in 1944 while retaining the right to live in the house.

Edinburgh merchant Thomas Dalyell built the manse in 1612. He became rich in the court of King James VI.

The House of the Binns

The House of the Binns (Elisa.rolle/Wikimedia Commons)

The Edinburgh News says Iron Age burials are rare in Scotland, but it’s not just in Scotland that they’re rare. A report from March 2015 detailed the find of an old tomb from Wales. The remains of a woman who died around the late 12 th or early 13 th century were excavated under the foundation a Welsh church that has been converted into a museum. The church was built over an older church in the 1820s.

The remains of a woman in her 60s, who died around the 13th century, were found recently under an old church in Wales.

The remains of a woman in her 60s, who died around the 13 th century, were found recently under an old church in Wales. (CR Archaeology photo)

Archaeologists found the skeleton of the woman, who they say died in her 60s, during reconstruction work on the museum. The church was St. Mary’s and now houses the Llŷn Maritime Museum in Nefyn, Gwennyd, Wales. They say it is rare to find any remains that old in North Wales because acidic soil disintegrates the bones.

Like the tomb in Scotland, the Welsh woman’s grave was a cist lined with stone. Archaeologists in Wales said they have assumed cists were of medieval origin. The find in Scotland dates earlier, to the Iron Age about 2,000 years ago.

Featured image: Iron Age grave containing father and son weavers. Credit: Edinburgh News

By Mark Miller



Mark Miller's picture

I didn’t take it personally. I didn’t do the research. I didn’t write the Greenland article. I wrote the article about the alleged weavers buried together. Just tried to help out the person who didn’t understand something.




Wow, with your teeth..? As a person who has been hand spinning with a Norse style spindle and soapstone whorl, I am very familiar with the skill involved and the methods used to clean wool that is being spun. This teeth theory is a new one to me. Wool cleaning was usually done with wool combs: a tool found in the the archaeological record as well as ethnographically. I can tell you from personal experience that it is very easy to park your spindle between your knees and clean a slub ( it does not take long at all). I read the paper on tooth wear from the Greenland settlement, sadly I think the theory is weak as 12 examples from a settlement that spanned a few hundred years...and... whose economy was based on the weaving trade should probably show wear in greater numbers. No, bashing you at all, just kind of scratching my head over this one :-)

Mark Miller's picture

What habitual behaviors of the Greenlanders might
be responsible for notched anterior teeth? We feel the dif
ference between males and females provides the biggest
clue. That is, the production of textiles was a task activity
that fell primarily on females. Ethnographic accounts and
descriptions bear testimony to this distinction.

Imperfections in the wool, such as hair, dirt, and so
forth, need to be picked out before the yarn is spun be
cause imperfections cause the finished yarn to be uneven
and difficult to work with. Although there is no documen
tary evidence for women using their teeth in the produc
tion of wool in Greenland, women in central Europe used
their teeth to pick out imperfections in their wool until a
generation ago (Sigrid Piroch, personal communication).
Spinners would hold the fiber about to be spun from the
distaff in one hand, while the other hand held the spindle
and whorl. Only the teeth were free to pick out the im
perfections like short, useless fibers and snarls; otherwise
the spinner would have to put down her spindle or the
distaff and pick out the imperfections by hand, which
would have considerably slowed down the spinning pro
cess. Even when the distaff was secured so that the hands
were free (such as tying it to a belt), it was often easier to
use one’s teeth to pick out the imperfections. The spin
ner would bite down on the section of the wool yarn that
contained the imperfection and simultaneously pull up
on the yarn through the teeth to remove the offending
imperfection. The manner of biting and angling up while
pulling the thread accounts for why there is often only
wear on the upper teeth and not the corresponding lower
teeth as well. As master handweaver Sigrid Piroch notes,
“when many women got older and lost too many of their
teeth they could no longer spin” (Sigrid Piroch, personal




Oh Shani you beat me to it! The truth is they COULD have been weavers, but it is just as possible that they both enjoyed eating rocks...

I wondering how can one jump to the conclusion they were weavers just because they had worn teeth? The headline says they ARE weavers yet the archaeologist states "he MAY have been a weaver". I'm no archaeologist/anthropologist but surely worn teeth could be due to a number of reasons.


Mark Miller's picture


Mark Miller has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and is a former newspaper and magazine writer and copy editor who's long been interested in anthropology, mythology and ancient history. His hobbies are writing and drawing.

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