Scotland's Cave of the DeadA Place of Mystery
On the northern edge of Scotland, there lies a cave that holds a dark history brimming with mystery. During the Bronze Age (1200 B.C. to 500 B. C.) the cave was used as a site to allow the deceased to decay in the open during a funeral practice known as excarnation, after which the bones of the dead would apparently be collected.
Numerous personal items such as hair rings and clothing pins were found on site, dating from the late Bronze Age.
This ceremonial use of the cave is shadowed by what appears to be a much darker purpose. According to a paper published in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, radiocarbon dating found that about six people were beheaded in the cave around 250 A.D.
According to Ian Armit, an archaeologist at the University of Bradford, “This is something very dramatic, an execution or sacrifice or something of that kind” took place.
the cave is shadowed by what appears to be a much darker purpose
Later, between 500 A.D. and 600 A.D. the Pictish people of Scottland carved a series of symbols adorning the entrance to the cave. These symbols included that of a fish, a crescent, and a ‘V’ shape. The meaning of these symbols remains unclear, but it’s been hypothesized that they could be names, a warning, a curse, or a ceremonial closure of the cave.
Due to the presence of high tide, access to these caves can be very dangerous. Through the University of Bradford, archaeologists have used laser scanners and higher-resolution light scanning techniques to map the cave. A 3-D model of the cave should be completed in 2018 allowing archaeologists to more easily study the Pictish carvings and preserve the caves digitally for future generations. The public will be able to view this 3-D model at the Elgin Museum as well as the internet when released.
For more information on the Cave of the Dead, please refer to an article at LiveScience.
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