Archaeologists Uncover Decapitated Remains at Elite School


Sculptor's Cave, where archaeologists discovered the remains of Pictish funeral rites. (Daily Mail)

Sculptor’s Cave, where archaeologists discovered the decapitated remains of children from the Bronze Age. (Daily Mail)

Archaeologists Uncover Decapitated Remains at Elite School

Archaeologists recently uncovered the decapitated heads of children, buried since the Bronze Age in a remote cave on the grounds of the prestigious Gordonstoun School in Scotland.

As the Daily Mail reports, the remains date back to the period between 1100 B.C. and 900 B.C.

Taken in the context of modern sensibilities, this discovery may seem grisly and hint at unsavory customs within ancient Scottish culture, but history especially should never be taken at face value.

A History of Discovery

First, it’s important to understand that ancient remains within Scottish caves are nothing new. As the BBC reported in 2007, these caves were often used as temples, and the bodies of children would be brought to these temples for mourning.

The Symbolism of Caves

It’s important to The discovery of these ritualistic funerary remnants reaffirms the ancient symbolism that our ancestors attached to caves.

Ian Armit, professor of archaeology at Bradford University, told The Sunday Times, “Caves had a great symbolic significance for early humans as places on the margin. They are on the edge of the land, they go from light to dark–all symbolizing the transition from life to death.”

Armit also told The Sunday Times that funeral rituals were frequently carried out in caves, and head displays were a hallmark of prehistoric customs.

“It is a common feature of head hunting and ancestor veneration,” he said. In this cave, remains from the late Bronze Age, show evidence for dead children having their heads cut off for display in the entrance.”

Children’s teeth were also uncovered in Sculptor’s Cave, along with gold hair-rings that probably fell on the ground as the bodies decomposed, Armit said.

Other evidence in the cave suggests that it was used as a site for executions as well.

The Mysterious Picts

The Picts only recorded their history through stone carvings. (Daily Mail)

The Picts only recorded their history through stone carvings. (Daily Mail)

Little is known of the Picts themselves, other than the power they wielded within Scotland at one time.

According to Joshua J. Mark of the Ancient History Encylopedia, the Picts were comprised of disparate groups of people who may have come to Scotland from Scandinavia. Apart from stone carvings, the clans did not maintain a historical record, leaving it to various Roman and Scottish writers to account for their existence.

The earliest mention we have of them is from AD 297, courtesy of the Roman writer Eumenius. The last mention is from AD 900, although scholars will emphasize this doesn’t mean they ceased to exist. Maybe they weren’t the hip clan anymore. Or it could be they assimilated with southern Scots culture, which, Joshua J. Mark writes, was fastidious about maintaining an historical record.

The Elite Gordonstoun

The elite Gordonstoun School, where Sculptor's Cave is located. (Mirror)

The elite Gordonstoun School, where Sculptor’s Cave is located. (Mirror)

Gordonstoun itself was founded in 1934 with only three pupils, the Daily Mail reports. With a current co-ed enrollment of 600, tuition costs approximately £12,000 or more than $18,500 per term. The institution is the last of an educational breed, as full boarding schools gradually fade from the United Kingdom.

At one time, the school was known for its own set of rules and rituals, including strict terms of discipline and punishments it would invoke upon naughty pupils. Students also took cold showers and woke up early in the morning for their required run. The primary and secondary school still boasts a stringent physical regimen for its attendees.

Prince Charles isn’t the only member of the Royal Family to attend Gordonstoun. Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, Prince Phillips, and Zara Phillips are also among the school’s distinguished alumni.

Outside the Royal Family, both Sean Connery and David Bowie have sent their sons to Gordonstoun and Charlie Chaplin enrolled his granddaughter there.

What do you think this latest archaeological discovery will add to our knowledge of ancient cultures? Join the discussion! Comment, share on Facebook and find us on Twitter, hashtag #DMTalk.

Pete Fernbaugh


Pete Fernbaugh is an experienced freelance writer, editor, and journalist who has worked primarily in the healthcare field for the last five years. He is also the co-host of Scapegoats & Straw Men, a podcast devoted to discussing in an entertaining and informative way the many logical fallacies that permeate our culture and dialogue. Pete has a passion for the mysterious and unknown, and he believes that nothing should be completely dismissed or completely accepted until the evidence is solid and credible.

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