Stirling Castle skeleton warrior to be revealed in BBC2 History Cold Case

By Culture24 Staff | 18 May 2010
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A picture of a photo mock up of a muscular man with a shaved head against a dark blue background

Stirling Man reveals the truth behind an executed Medieval warrior (above) found at Stirling Castle

The identity of a sword-swinging War of Independence warrior whose executed skeleton was discovered buried in a forgotten chapel at Stirling Castle 13 years ago is set to be revealed this week in a BBC investigation using the latest scientific tests.

BBC Two's History Cold Case has reconstructed the face of the Medieval Knight after archaeologists found his bludgeoned body in a mass grave of 10 skeletons thought to have been slaughtered in a siege during the Anglo-Scottish wars of the late 13th and 14th centuries.

Forensic experts from Dundee University, the University of Bradford and the University of Oxford will attempt to pinpoint the nationality of the muscular horseman by comparing his bloodied corpse with those of soldiers found in mass burial pits at decisive War of the Roses clash the Battle of Towton in 1461. They will also investigate the other bodies, which include two infants.

A photo of a scientist in a white lab coat looking at a skeleton

Dr Jo Buckberry examines a female skeleton found in the grave at the Castle

"This group is highly unusual, because of where and when the people were buried, suggesting that they might have been socially important and have died during extreme events such as sieges," said the University of Bradford’s Dr Jo Buckberry.

"Techniques have advanced a long way since the skeletons were discovered in 1997 and we can now tell much more about where people came from, their lifestyles and causes of death.

"As the castle changed hands a number of times these are people who could have come from Scotland, England or even France and one of my hopes is that we will be able to find out where at least some of them originated."

A photo of a woman dressed in royal wear in a long hall inside a castle

The bodies were found in 1997 during work preparing for the £12 million transformation of the Castle

Richard Strachan, Senior Archaeologist for Historic Scotland, said the initial facial mock-up had given "a powerful impression" of 14th century combatants.

"He was a very strong and fit nobleman, with the physique of a professional rugby player, who would have been trained since boyhood to handle heavy swords and other weapons and who would have spent a great deal of time on horseback," he suggested.

"We are building on this work through a project with Dr Buckberry, and her colleagues, to use the latest archaeological techniques to discover more about the lives and origins of all the people found buried in the chapel."

Insights into the backgrounds of the soldiers, their diets and their deaths are also expected to be revealed by the team, with the results forming a permanent exhibition at the Castle next year.

"The BBC's research, and the further investigations we are carrying out, will be an important part of the new exhibitions that visitors will be able to enjoy next spring," said Castle Executive Manager Gillian MacDonald.

"They will be able to see the reconstruction of the knight, who seems to have survived many terrible wounds before finally being killed."

The skeletons were found during preparatory work for the recent £12 million restoration of the Castle.

A photo of an ornate ancient sofa full of cushions inside a museum

The psychoanalytic sofa at The Freud Museum, which stars in a BBC documentary on Thursday. Photo: Konstantin Binder, londonleben.co.uk

The programme gives history fans something of a dilemma on Thursday evening, starting at the same time as the second part of a BBC documentary charting the fortunes of small independent UK museums.

Described as a "wry and affectionate journey", Behind the Scenes at the Museum heads to The Freud Museum, examining how the former London home of Sigmund Freud has boosted visitor numbers with an eye-catching range of exhibitions and events.

Viewers will get to see Mexican textiles on Freud's couch, Gemma Anderson’s portraits of psychiatrists and their patients and personal possessions belonging to Freud. The show aims to explore how small venues can remain financially strong in testing economic times.

Stirling Man is on BBC2. Behind the Scenes at the Museum is on BBC4. Both programmes run 9pm-10pm on Thursday (May 20 2010)

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