THE ANCIENT face of one of Scotland’s “oldest druids” who lived during the Iron Age has been recreated.
Digital and wax models reveal “Hilda”, a wealthy woman who lived in Stornoway as far back as 2,000 years ago.
Druids were a mysterious class of Britain’s ancient Celtic culture.
Historical texts suggest they managed local law, lorekeeping and politics – but they’ve long been associated with mystical rituals and potion-making too.
The skull belonging to “Hilda” was first found on the Isle of Lewis in 1833, and is one of six “Druids of the Hebrides” skulls presented at the time.
And now her face has been recreated in stunning detail by Karen Fleming, a Forensic Art student at the University of Dundee.
Her toothless, aged face reveals her poor diet and high status in ancient society.
“Hilda was a fascinating character to recreate,” Karen explained.
“It’s clear from the skull she was toothless before she died, which isn’t too surprising considering the diet of folk back then.
“But it was impressive how long she lived.
“A female’s life expectancy at this time was roughly 31 years, but it is now thought that living longer during the Iron Age is indicative of a privileged background.”
Dating the skull precisely hasn’t been possible due to a lack of carbon-dating on the find.
But the 1833 journal suggests that “Hilda” died any time between 55BC and 400 AD, and was of Celtic origin.
Druids – the key facts
Here's what you need to know…
- Druids were members of a high-ranking class in ancient Celtic cultures
- They’re typically remembered as religious leaders, but also performed other civic duties
- Roles included legal work, lorekeepers, physicians and political advisers
- Typically druids would learn to read, but wouldn’t be allowed to write down their knowledge
- So they were tasked with passing knowledge on from person to person
- This makes discovering their history difficult, although there are accounts of them written by Roman and Greek contemporaries
- The earliest known reference to druids is from the 4th century BC
- Druids were supressed by the Roman government in the 1st century
- And they disappeared from written records by the 2nd century
Karen said that this summer’s heatwave almost melted Hilda, so she went to extreme lengths to keep her cool,” she said.
“It’s funny to say it now but I had to keep parts of Hilda – like her wax modelled ears – in the fridge for most of the summer.
“As a mature student who commutes from Edinburgh, I often had to keep her cool in the car, strapped up in the passenger seat.
“I’m sure that’s a sight passers-by won’t forget seeing.”
The forensic artist added: “I think she looks like many older women I’ve met in my life and I’m proud of that.”
Waxy “Hilda” will be display at this year’s Masters Show in Scotland, from August 16 to 25.
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What do you make of Hilda’s lovely mug? Let us know in the comments!
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