Face revealed of 4,000-year-old Copper Age Scotsman

Thankerton Man was aged between 18 and 25. Picture: PA

Thankerton Man was aged between 18 and 25. Picture: PA

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Scientists have recreated the face of a man who lived in Scotland more than 4,000 years ago.

The skeleton of the young man, who dates from the Copper Age, was discovered at Boatbridge Quarry in Thankerton, South Lanarkshire.

Named Thankerton Man, an image of how he would have looked has been constructed by experts at the University of Dundee. It is on show to the public at the newly opened Biggar and Upper Clydesdale Museum.

His skeleton was found in a stone cist at the quarry in 1970. He was unusually tall, thought to be aged between 18 and 25, and was found lying in a crouched position. The remains were radiocarbon dated to between 2460BC and 2140BC.

The cist contained a finely decorated beaker which had held food or drink for the deceased’s journey into the 
afterlife.

Working from detailed analysis of the skull, specialists in the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (Cahid), one of the world’s leading centres for facial reconstruction, have created a reconstruction of the man’s face.

Caroline Erolin, lecturer in forensic and medical art at Cahid, said: “Given its age, the skeleton of Thankerton Man was in excellent condition, which allowed us to get a strong impression of how he may have looked.

“Once we built the basic shape of his face, we then looked at historical data to get a better idea of how a man would have looked at that time. For instance, we know they had the ability to shave.”

The estimated height of the man was around 1.8 metres (5ft 11in), which is regarded as tall in Copper Age terms.

Dr Alison Sheridan, principal curator of early prehistory at National Museums Scotland, who provided archaeological advice, said: “This is a magnificent piece of work that really brings the past to light. It has spurred us on to arrange the DNA analysis of this man’s remains.”

Professor Sue Black, the centre’s director, is a world renowned forensic anthropologist whose expertise at victim identification has seen her involved in a number of high-profile projects.

These include heading the British forensic teams’ exhumation of mass graves in Kosovo and being involved in the International War Crimes Tribunal and the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.

Her skills have also led to convictions in a number of criminal cases such as the conviction of Scotland’s largest paedophile ring in 2009.

In 2010, Prof Black headed a team which carried out a facial reconstruction of a medieval knight whose remains were discovered under the floor of a chapel at Stirling Castle, near the royal apartments.

This resulted in detailed information about the knight who had fought in Scotland’s War of Independence against England in the late 13th and 14th centuries.

The knight, who was around 5ft 7in tall, “very strong and fit with the build of current-day professional rugby player”, was found to have suffered several serious injuries in the past.

He had an arrowhead lodged in his chest and a dent in the front of his skull from an arrow impact.

However, he was killed by a blow from a sword which went through his nose and jaw.

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