Deep in a subterranean chamber of The Cairns broch on Orkney, archaeologists have made what they call an “astonishing” discovery of 20 strands of hair which date back 2,000 years to the Iron Age.
The Scotsman reported that along with the hair that was found, archaeologists also recovered a wooden bowl that may have once been used for ceremonial purposes and which also happens to be the oldest such bowl ever to be found on Orkney.
Lecturer Martin Carruthers, who teaches at the UHI Archaeology Institute, explained that the hair was currently undergoing scientific examination in the hope that archaeologists will be able to learn more about life on Orkney during the Iron Age.
“We have made a number of astonishing finds at The Cairns, including strands of hair. My hunch is that it is human hair. We have around 20 strands. That is just what we could see and I am sure there will be other strands in the soil samples we have taken.”
Carruthers believes that the 2,000-year-old hair is indeed that of a human individual and further noted that if this does turn out to be correct, archaeologists will be able to gather plenty of information about the diet of Iron Age people in Scotland.
“It looks like human hair, it is pliable, if you blow on it, it moves. It is shiny, dark and measures around eight to 10 centimetres long so potentially it records eight to 10 months of information about diet and the conditions people were living in. We are hoping it will help up build a very rich picture of what was going on around that building and really drill into the detail of the humans living there.”
Even though archaeologists have previously managed to recover some human remains such as teeth, they have never discovered anything quite like human hair on Orkney, according to Martin Carruthers, and certainly, nothing that dates back 2,000 years.
“We have recovered some human remains from the site in the past, such as a mandible and the odd tooth, but nothing as exciting as the hair which gives us enormous potential to give us a more vivid picture of the humanity of the broch.”
Besides the wooden bowl and hair, what looks like a tent peg was also found at this roundhouse site, along with decorative items that were built into the chamber.
It is not known when testing will be completed on the 2,000-year-old hair that was on Orkney, but once it is archaeologists will be able to confirm whether it is human hair.