Six Heads are Better than One

In 15th century Scotland, over 30 clans existed that served an important part in society.  A Scottish clan is a group, typically relatives or close friends, that comes together to give a shared sense of identity.  Clan members did not have to be related, but did often take the Clan Chief’s last name in order for protection and sustenance.  These clans often have a rich history and have their own tartan patterns, customs, and rituals.

In 1997, Archaeologists digging around  St. Colman ’s Church discovered a grave that held two complete male skeletons along with four other skulls.  Research shows that the burial comes from a 15th century Scotish clan rivalry between the MacKay and Ross clans.  This ended with the St. Colman’s church being burned down.  

 FAS and the University of Bradford in England have spent several years excavating St. Colman’s Church and the surrounding area, as part of the Tarbat Discovery Programme, their hopes is to understand the lives of these Clans.  Because of their passion for this project, they have recreated one of the full skeleton’s face. 

3D Facial Reconstruction provided by Dr. Jessica Liu and Dr. Sarah Shrimpton

Due to recent advances in technology around DNA and facial reconstruction, the face of one of the skeletons has been reconstructed.  The reconstruction has been done by Dr. Jessica Liu and Dr. Sarah Shrimpton at the Face lab at Liverpool John Moores University.  

Scientists are looking in hopes that a DNA analysis will reveal the Clan’s genetic heritage and if there is any familial relationship between each of the clan members.  

As pictured above, the male has been depicted as having a ragged strict face covered in freckles.  This shows only one of the occupants in the multi-person grave. 

Due to the immense respect and importance of the Clan’s Chief, it is most likely that the full skeletons belong to their Chiefs.  

The skeletons come from The Battle of Tarbat between the Clan Ross and the Clan Mackay.

It began when the Ross Clan found the Mackay Clan raiding near the Portmahomach Village.  After some of the Mackay Clan was killed, they retreated to the St. Colman’s Church which was then set on fire by the Ross Clan.  The true stories of the battle are recounted in a Scottish Poem written by the Ross Clan.