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