Another road trip with work to the north of the island led me past the scene of an extremely important find.

Picture the scene… 12th May 1951. Two men were cutting a new peat bank and came across some human remains at a depth of 75cm or roughly 3 feet down. Police were called and thankfully it wasn’t an ‘orrible murder but something historical and very interesting indeed.

What they had come across was a burial from the 17th Century. By the time they found him there was nothing left but his finger and toe nails, some hair and a few fragments of bone. His clothing and personal effects however were pretty much intact.

His purse still held three coins (1 Dutch and 2Swedish). One of the coins had the date 1690 and his clothing was of a style typical of the 17th century.

The reconstruction of his clothing looked like this…

His grave location was marked by the men who erected a large stone…

I think it was the one above as the sign wasn’t that specific…

It was common practice up here to simply bury someone who was found up on the hill, a shallow grave was dug away from any peat workings if the body was unrecognised. This was especially the case if the body had been there a while.There are no records of this man being buried or no folk memories either so this could possibly be the case. Hypothermia or some illness could have caused him to die between townships. Was it murder, although there is no evidence on the clothing and the fact that there were coins in his purse, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t. He may have had pack ponies with him with valuable goods in… we never can tell. One theory I have heard was that he might have been out collecting rents from the various crofting communities… who knows?

It is a bit sad to think that this man one day simply disappeared, potentially leaving family and friends to wonder why he never came back.

So there you go… the Gunnister man… an extremely important archaeological and historical find.

Next time we will look at some geographical history, or potentially historical geography…

4 thoughts on “Bodies…Or Lack of Really

  1. Excellent post! Good job you put this post up after your three-day absence on-line or we’d all be getting worried and booking our flights out to Shetland to look for you! Well, OK, maybe not until you’d at least got some of those bugs painted to go with the mobile infantry! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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