Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Monday, 2 August 2010 11:47 UK
Gristhorpe Man speaks after 4,000 years
Facial reconstruction of Gristhorpe Man. Copyright: Dr Alan Ogden.

Gristhorpe Man speaks

After 4,000 years Gristhorpe Man is finally breaking his silence.

Dr Alan Ogden of Bradford University has created a facial reconstruction of the famous Bronze Age skeleton that actually talks.

The remains were discovered inside a coffin made from the trunk of an oak tree at Gristhorpe in 1834.

The coffin, skeleton and grave goods, were all donated to the Scarborough Philosophical Society and were displayed at the Rotunda Museum.

The Gristhorpe collection remained in the Rotunda until it closed for refurbishment in 2006. The Bronze Age remains returned to the museum in 2008.

During the renovation the collection was transported to the Division of Archaeological Sciences at Bradford University where a large number of tests and investigations were carried out.

They included a CT scan of the skull at Bradford Royal Infirmary. The details revealed helped give Dr Ogden the evidence on which to create the facial reconstruction.

Dr Ogden has, however, gone one step further and using his skills as a dentist and osteologist he has been able to use software that allows Gristhorpe Man to speak.

"I was able to build a facial reconstruction from the amazingly well survived skull from what is arguably the best-preserved 4,000-year-old skeleton in Britain.

Facial reconstruction in progress.Copyright: Dr Alan Ogden.
The Bronze Age skeleton was discovered in 1834

"Investigations by a team of us at Bradford showed that he was in his early sixties, had lived in the area most of his life and had usually been in good health.

"He was tall and muscular and had lived on a rich and carefully prepared diet. We presume therefore that he was part of a local ruling family. His death was relatively sudden and was probably related to a brain tumour which our examinations revealed."

Dr Ogden also used modern software techniques to animate the facial reconstruction to enable it to speak in modern English:

"He would actually have spoken a form of Proto-Celtic, that we can only guess at. I hope that the visitor to the museum can visualise him as a living man, a senior figure in his society, used to being obeyed and probably even revered."

Karen Snowden, Head of Collections for Scarborough Museums Trust said they were "really excited" to add another layer of interpretation to Gristhorpe Man.

"His skeleton, grave goods and coffin are one of the most important group of objects in Scarborough's collections.

"We have been working with Bradford University for a few years now to fully understand this unique man and his history, the story is now made more real with the addition of his voice"

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific