Face of 17th century Scottish prisoner of war revealed

A reconstructed image of a soldier captured by Cromwellian forces in the 17th century. Picture: TSPL
A reconstructed image of a soldier captured by Cromwellian forces in the 17th century. Picture: TSPL
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The face of a 17th-century Scottish prisoner of war who died after being captured by Cromwell’s troops has been revealed using the latest digital technology.

The soldier was among 3,000 marched south in 1650 following the short, but bloody Battle of Dunbar to the then abandoned Durham Cathedral.

The skull of a Scottish solider who was imprisoned and died following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 is digitally scanned. Picture: SWNS

The skull of a Scottish solider who was imprisoned and died following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 is digitally scanned. Picture: SWNS

Between 17 and 28 skeletons were found in a mass grave in 2013 close to the cathedral.

Durham University experts carried out extensive research on the remains to identify who they were.

Sophisticated software was used to create an digital image of what one of the soldiers looked like in a collaboration between archaeologists and Liverpool John Moores University’s Face Lab specialists.

They took parts of the skull of one of the soldiers – a man aged from 18 to 25 known as Skeleton 22 – and carefully rebuilt them, making a scan to work from to rebuild his face.

What emerged on screen was a wide-mouthed man with a strong nose. He has been depicted wearing a blue bonnet and the brown jacket typical of a Scottish solider of the time.

Professor Chris Gerrard, from Durham University’s department of archaeology, said: “The resulting image is a poignant opportunity to come face to face with a young man who lived and died over 300 years ago.”

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Professor Caroline Wilkinson, from Face Lab, said: “Our collaboration with Durham University enabled us to draw on scans and data to create the most accurate and lifelike image possible to enable a true glimpse into the past of this Scottish soldier and how his life had been lived.”

Bone testing has revealed Skeleton 22 suffered periods of poor nutrition while growing up in south-west Scotland.

About 1,700 prisoners died in Durham and their remains could be buried around what is now a World Heritage site.

Some of those who survived were transported to the US and Barbados.

Others were set to work in mines.

The remains of all the skeletons will be buried in a local churchyard once the studies have been completed next year.

After Oliver Cromwell’s unexpected victory over Scottish forces who supported Charles II, about 6,000 soldiers were captured.

About 1,000 of the sickest were freed.

A further 1,000 of the hungry, defeated soldiers died on the gruelling march south, while many escaped and some were shot for refusing to walk further.

Face Lab has already reconstructed historical figures, including Robert the Bruce, Richard III and St Nicholas.