The Skeletons of Windy Pits History Cold Case


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The Skeletons of Windy Pits

Professor Sue Black and her team use forensic science to shed light on the past. They look at bones that might belong to a family from 2,000 years ago.


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At Dundee's Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification

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the history cold case team is about to take on a dramatic new case

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surrounding a major, unsolved archaeological mystery.

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Our next case? Wonderful name, it's called Windy Pits.

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We've got human remains that are spanning across 3,000 years.

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Setting up a mobile forensic lab

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they'll investigate the puzzling remains of more than 20 people

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discovered here in underground caves.

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They're believed to be some of the oldest human bones

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ever found in Britain.

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Location - even better. The remote North Yorkshire Moors.

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-Oh, my neck of the woods.

-In winter.

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Potholing.

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Who are they, and why are their bones here?

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It perhaps would have taken four or five people to hold him down.

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Are the caves simply Iron Age graveyards,

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or is there a more sinister explanation

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for how this became the final resting place of so many people?

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If these bones came up as a forensic case,

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I would be advising the police

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that we need to look at this a lot more closely.

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The investigation will shine a light

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on a long-forgotten period of our ancient history.

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A time of brutal rituals

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and bizarre beliefs,

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when people lived in fear of what lay beneath the surface of the earth.

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The coup de grace - there'll be a great spurt of blood!

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Can modern forensics finally solve the mystery

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of what happened at the Windy Pits?

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And what dark and surprising new truths will emerge

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about how we lived 2,000 years ago?

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The skeletons at the centre of this investigation

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were excavated from an extraordinary network of limestone caves,

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carved deep into the landscape of the North York Moors.

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There are believed to be 22 people among the remains.

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But information about who they were and how they died

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has remained tantalizingly beyond our reach.

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With so many questions still unanswered,

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local archaeologists carefully lay out the bones again

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in a mobile forensic unit

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close to where they were first excavated.

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They hope a brand new investigation,

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using science as well as historical analysis,

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will help explain what happened here.

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Well, this is interesting.

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Forensic anthropologist Dr Xanthe Mallett

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arrives to make the first visual assessment of the bones,

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before reporting back to team leader Professor Sue Black in Dundee.

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There's a huge amount of work to do here.

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There's going to be 22 individuals we believe, maybe more, maybe less,

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but you've got to ask what they're doing out on the middle of North Yorkshire Moors.

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And when you've got 3,000 years' worth of history involved,

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I can't for a moment imagine what that's going to turn into.

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Archaeologist Graham Lee brings Xanthe up to speed

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with how this unique, unusual hoard of human remains was discovered.

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Been looking forward to you coming in actually,

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because this is a real puzzle we've got going on here.

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What do you know about them?

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All of the bones here have come from things called windy pits

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which are natural fissures where the rock has cracked apart

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and created some quite deep caverns in the edge of the valleys.

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And when people started exploring the Windy Pits

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they started finding these fragments of human bone.

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The remains are thought to span several thousand years,

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from Roman times right back to around 2,000 BC.

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The team wants to focus their enquiry

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on a group of four individuals

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that were found together in one of the deepest caves,

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known as Slip Gill.

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All of these come from just one of the windy pits, Slip Gill,

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which is one of the deepest and steepest of the fissures.

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These have been radiocarbon dated

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to about the middle of the first century BC,

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to the beginning of the second century AD.

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They were found in a heap at the bottom of the windy pit

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and it's virtually a sort of, I don't know... 23, 25-metre drop,

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pretty much straight down from the entrance.

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So they've all ended up being squashed together

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at the bottom, together with rocks and other debris.

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The suggestion has been made that it could be a family.

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But why might a family end up dead in a cave?

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At the site where they were found, Xanthe sees for herself

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why these mysterious caves are called the Windy Pits.

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We're now above Slip Gill,

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which is one of the deepest windy pits.

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Can you see the... All the vegetation's moving here

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and that's a result of the hot draught coming up from the mouth of the windy pit.

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I can see why this would have been a really mysterious place.

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-It looks spooky, doesn't it?

-It does, yes.

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-Oh, you can feel the warm air from here really well, can't you?

-Straight away.

-Yeah.

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The human bones found in Slip Gill date from around the first century AD.

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There was a series of expeditions into these fissures,

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say, through the 1950s.

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I'm not sure that you would look at them

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-and say that everyone is necessarily clad that appropriately for caving.

-No.

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-Some hard hats...

-Yep.

-..And some ropes, that's pretty much it, and a spade.

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And they were the people that recovered

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the bits and pieces of the bodies from the bottom.

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Since being found in the 1950s,

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the bones have been the subject of much study and debate.

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But the job of this new investigation

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is to look at the evidence again with fresh eyes,

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and without being influenced by any previous theories.

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Back in the mobile laboratory,

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Xanthe begins the task of making sense of the puzzling remains.

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She will look for signs that could confirm age, gender

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and any evidence of trauma.

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But the incompleteness of the skeletons will prove a major hurdle

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in trying to establish the identities of the dead.

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Not very much here with this one.

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No skull, no pelvis,

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not very much at all.

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Initially, we're looking... certainly at an adult individual.

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Pretty... Pretty robust femur,

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been reconstructed slightly,

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so first gut feeling would be that this is probably a male.

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Luckily we've got quite a bit of the skull on this one,

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so this might actually work for reconstruction.

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As her initial examination continues

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she spots a curious injury on the jawbone of the one of the males.

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Now, that might be our first sign of significant trauma.

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This is a... It looks like a sharp-force trauma

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to the side of the mandible,

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which would just be along your jaw line.

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This is not an injury that's happened a reasonable time before death

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and the bone has started to regenerate.

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So...

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Initial impression would be that this is an injury

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that could have occurred around the time of death.

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So at least one of the four people from Slip Gill

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may not have died of natural causes.

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So we've got some interesting elements mixed in,

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we've got some sharp-force trauma...

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on a fairly robust group.

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It's interesting.

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By forensically retracing events around the scene of death

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and gaining clues as to who these people were in life,

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can they uncover what happened here?

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This case promises to drag the team back

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to a largely-unrecorded period of our history.

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It's a rare opportunity to build a personalized account

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of life and death in Britain 2,000 years ago.

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Back at Headquarters in Dundee,

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they must first agree on the direction the investigation will take.

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Xanthe brings Professor Sue Black up to speed,

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along with Professor Caroline Wilkinson,

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who's in charge of facial reconstruction.

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One of the cave sites

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is literally just kind of like a hole in this bowl in the earth.

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Basically, it goes straight down, it's like a chimney

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and so people have obviously been deposited in here

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and we're not sure why.

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To help understand the shape and size

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of the Slip Gill cave where the four skeletons were found,

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Xanthe shows them a 3-D reconstruction.

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The CGI will really help you get a kind of visual

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on the type of system we're talking about.

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So this is kind of open, desolate moorland.

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-This is going down into the cave, so you can see the shaft.

-That's good.

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It's huge, isn't it? It's amazing.

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So, you can see how bodies would have tumbled down here,

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once they get kind of down the channel and over that ridge,

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this is where they would have landed.

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Presumed to be the bones of a man, a woman and two teenagers,

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the obvious questions is, why?

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You've got to wonder why they're putting people in here.

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Is this ritualistic?

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Is this just vindictive of people just being, you know, murdered and, in essence, hidden?

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-You're concealing them.

-Exactly, yeah.

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To try and get some concrete answers about who these people were,

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bone samples taken in the field will go forward for forensic testing.

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DNA is the obvious one.

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Obviously, are we looking for a biological relationship

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which ties all or any of four individuals? Yeah.

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Carbon dating has already been carried out on the bones

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placing then around the turn of the first century AD.

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-So that really only leaves us with stable isotopes.

-Indeed.

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Yep. So, obviously, with that, we're going to be wondering

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are they local, were they always local?

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-It'll tell us a bit about diet as well.

-Exactly.

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And possibly quality of life, standard, that kind of thing as well.

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-OK.

-So, with me doing the stable isotopes.

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So besides all of the tests we can do

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we really need to look at the context, the wider context.

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Who was potentially using this as a burial site,

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-deposition site, or was this accidental?

-Why.

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Why? The bigger picture.

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It's a real kind of intriguing puzzle, isn't it?

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-Yes, it's not... It's not normal.

-No.

-No, it isn't normal.

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-No, nothing normal about this.

-So there is a story.

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It's about finding out what the most likely story is.

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The damaged jawbone belonging to the teenage male

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is the only hard evidence they have so far

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that this might not be a straightforward or innocent burial.

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But it's enough to rouse Sue's suspicions.

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The likely scenario's sounding as if

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what we've got is a suspicious situation,

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where four individuals are found at the bottom of a very long shaft,

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in the middle of remote moors,

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but there are other caves around it,

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where obviously something untoward must have gone on

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at different times in history.

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One of the first tests is DNA.

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This could establish if the skeletons have more than their final resting place in common.

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Are they a family? Do we have mum, dad and two adolescent children?

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The only way we're going to be able to find that out

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is if we can extract DNA, and we can match them through DNA.

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But the older the bones, the harder it is to get meaningful results

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and science alone won't be enough to solve this case.

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The carbon dating places our skeletons

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in the early part of the Roman occupation.

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But if our people were locals,

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theirs would likely be a very pre-Roman way of life,

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much as people had existed in and around the moors for millennia.

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Xanthe has come to a traditional Iron Age village

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to meet archaeologist Steve Sherlock.

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She wants to understand how our people from Slip Gill

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might have lived, and why their remains would be in a cave.

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The individuals from Windy Pits - would they have lived somewhere like this?

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They'd have lived in this sort of environment and structures.

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-How many people would have lived in a house like this?

-One family, but about eight to ten people.

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And how many houses like this would have made up a community?

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There could have been four or five houses like this in a busy village.

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-That's quite a large community then.

-Indeed it is.

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And we mustn't just think of this one community,

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-there would be another one quite close by.

-And they would've interacted?

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They would've traded, farmed and communicated, supported and helped each other.

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We're talking about a society, not individual groups.

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During the Iron Age,

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the Britain population topped three million people.

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This was a sophisticated culture and society.

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Steve explains how the part of the moors where the Windy Pits are located

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were a sort of no-man's-land between two competing Celtic tribes.

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The windy pits are an interesting area

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because they're on the North Yorkshire Moors

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which are, let's say, a neutral area between the tribes to the south called the Parisi

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and the tribes to the north, of the Brigantes.

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So it's probable that the Parisi were using the Windy Pits.

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They're the people that are having sites and activities

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-on the southern parts of the North Yorkshire Moors.

-Would the two different tribes have fought?

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There may well have been territorial differences, but there's no evidence for battles as such.

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Curiously, Steve is convinced that caves would not normally have been used for burials,

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or deposition, as archaeologists call it.

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The normal burial rite may well have been cremation scattering the ashes to the wind,

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or being buried at locations nearer to the settlements,

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a long way away from the Windy Pits.

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So it's a really different type of deposition?

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It's a different deposition in terms of choosing a location

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and potentially only choosing certain people

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to be buried at those points.

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So people aren't living in the immediate vicinity?

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It's taken a lot of people a lot of effort to bury people there.

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Indeed. That tells you there's a religious action to this,

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choosing people, location, for a special reason.

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This points to the discovery of the skeletons at Slip Gill

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being something unusual and special, even for Iron Age society.

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How did the bodies end up several feet down in the dark, and why?

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Might the bones finally give up some answers?

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Back at Dundee HQ, the team is desperate for a new lead.

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They assemble to receive the results of the DNA analysis.

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Dr Ian Barnes from Royal Holloway, University of London,

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has the difficult task of trying to answer the question

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of whether the 2,000 year-old bones at Slip Gill

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come from people who were genetically related.

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We're hanging on your every word

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in the hope that you give us something phenomenally exciting...

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And...over to you!

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-Um.

-Yeah.

-That face says everything. Go on.

-OK. So...

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We've had a couple of goes at getting DNA from this material

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and there's just nothing that is reliable.

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It looks to us like there's multiple sequences

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laid over the top of each other

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-so we think it's just contamination.

-OK.

-OK.

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But I don't think there's any, um, real DNA from those individuals

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in the samples that you gave us.

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It's disappointing news.

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Ian thinks that the bones may have become contaminated,

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making it impossible to answer

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whether the male, female and teenagers are related.

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So it doesn't really help the story in any way,

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because potentially they could still be family and linked genetically,

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-we just can't tell.

-Yeah.

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Well, that's disappointing, but so be it. That's the way science goes.

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-Thank you very much.

-Thanks for that, Ian.

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Right, sorry about that.

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Good to speak to you. Thanks again. Take care. Bye.

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With DNA having failed to provide any leads,

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Sue feels it's time she examined the bones herself.

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To scour them for possible causes of death,

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she starts by looking at the injury to the jawbone of the teenage male.

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Her experience alerts her to how serious a blow this could have been.

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It's one of the most dangerous places for men who are shaving -

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just right there.

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Because if you put your finger just lightly on there,

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you'll feel an artery, pulsing underneath

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and the facial artery comes up just on there.

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Just perfectly where that is, may I say.

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So that what you have is a real nick into the bone.

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That's not a thin-bladed implement, we've got a large blade.

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So whether you're talking...axe, you're talking machete,

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something that is a large blade.

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It's not like a little, thin kitchen knife,

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because you have a wide entrance

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and a narrow point at which it's come to a stop,

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before it's been pulled out.

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And so that when that implement has come up onto that jaw line,

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what it's then done is, it's caused fracturing to run across here

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and up there and then up towards the base of this tooth.

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Sue believes this wasn't self-inflicted.

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He may have been murdered.

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It certainly will have caused a lot of pain and a lot of bleeding.

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It could have resulted in death.

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This has been caused by somebody else.

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Somebody has inflicted this on this individual

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and it's a young individual.

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And then, on the leg bones of the adult male, she spots more suspicious marks.

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This is a pattern that's quite consistent

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with a fracture occurring in what's called a green bone.

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So it behaves very differently from an old bone

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that doesn't have much water content and organic material still left in it.

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What we don't have is any evidence of healing.

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So this is consistent with the person - perhaps dead,

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perhaps not quite dead -

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being dropped down onto a height.

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There's no proof yet,

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but Sue feels that taking all the evidence so far,

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a picture of suspicious death is definitely emerging for this group.

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If these bones came up as a forensic case

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I would be advising the police to look at this a lot more closely.

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There's something very suspicious going on here.

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You might cut yourself shaving,

0:19:430:19:44

but you sure as heck don't cut yourself shaving at that depth.

0:19:440:19:48

So that the sharp trauma injury, if nothing else,

0:19:480:19:51

is decidedly suspicious.

0:19:510:19:53

Xanthe has an agonizing wait to return to Slip Gill.

0:20:000:20:03

She's keen to test the theory

0:20:030:20:04

that the breaks on the leg bones of the adult male

0:20:040:20:07

could have been caused by falling into the cave.

0:20:070:20:10

But the caves are an important roosting site for bats

0:20:100:20:13

and access is restricted.

0:20:130:20:17

Finally, Spring arrives and she's able to meet up again

0:20:170:20:20

with archaeologist Graham Lee and local caver Martin Roe.

0:20:200:20:23

Lovely to meet you. Is it dangerous in there? Have you got any idea?

0:20:230:20:27

For anybody that didn't have the right equipment and knew how to use it then potentially it is,

0:20:270:20:31

because just behind me here is a 16-metre drop straight to the floor.

0:20:310:20:35

-That is deep, isn't it? Straight down?

-Straight down, yeah.

0:20:350:20:39

Even an experienced caver like Martin

0:20:390:20:42

thinks twice about entering Slip Gill.

0:20:420:20:44

He'll carefully descend to show Xanthe the inside of the cave

0:20:440:20:49

via a camera attached to his helmet.

0:20:490:20:51

For the first time, she will see the real anatomy

0:20:510:20:54

of the final resting place of the skeletons.

0:20:540:20:56

The first few metres of Slip Gill are on a shallow incline

0:20:580:21:02

before Martin reaches the main shaft.

0:21:020:21:05

-MARTIN ON RADIO:

-'Just to let you know what I'm doing.

0:21:050:21:08

'I'm moving towards the top of the big drop'

0:21:080:21:10

and you should be seeing the big, dark hole in front of me.

0:21:100:21:14

-Yep.

-Look at that.

0:21:140:21:16

-That's like going into the abyss, isn't it?

-Yep.

0:21:160:21:19

Yeah, you can see, there's nothing under him there.

0:21:190:21:22

The cave is 16-metres deep, certainly a potentially fatal drop.

0:21:220:21:27

A series of overhanging rocks

0:21:270:21:29

make the final descent particularly perilous.

0:21:290:21:33

That must be pretty scary in there.

0:21:390:21:40

-It's pitch black, except for that little light coming from the head-torch.

-Yep.

0:21:400:21:44

Oh, dear! That wasn't very clever!

0:21:470:21:51

So he's going to be now touching down where the bodies were found,

0:21:510:21:54

-on that kind of scree slope?

-Exactly.

0:21:540:21:57

So I'm at the bottom now.

0:22:010:22:03

'What I'll do now is I'll turn on the big light'

0:22:030:22:05

and show you how far I've come down from the surface.

0:22:050:22:09

XANTHE ON RADIO: 'OK, great. Thanks.'

0:22:090:22:12

-Oh, wow!

-Wow, look at that!

0:22:210:22:22

It's an extraordinary place,

0:22:220:22:25

and one that's remained unchanged for thousands of years.

0:22:250:22:29

-That is a long way.

-So you can see the nature of the fissure.

0:22:350:22:38

That's very... It's very slim on the way down, isn't it?

0:22:380:22:41

-Yeah, it is. It's a very narrow slot. That's fantastic.

0:22:410:22:45

And this ties in with the idea that our man fell from a height.

0:22:450:22:49

So once the body went in there,

0:22:510:22:53

it's going to slide down that chimney,

0:22:530:22:55

bounce off some rocks, off the ledge, and land at the bottom?

0:22:550:22:58

-Down on this scree slope down here.

-That's it.

0:22:580:23:01

Wow! I just can't imagine anyone getting out of that alive.

0:23:010:23:05

Xanthe's happy that the man's injuries

0:23:070:23:10

are consistent with the cave being the scene of death.

0:23:100:23:13

But why were these people here?

0:23:140:23:17

What was the significance of this place?

0:23:170:23:20

Oh There he is, hello! How are you doing?

0:23:220:23:27

I'm a bit sweaty. But in one piece.

0:23:270:23:30

Quite relieved to have you back with us.

0:23:300:23:33

Yeah, very much so.

0:23:330:23:34

-Well done.

-Hey!

0:23:360:23:38

Meanwhile in Dundee, Caroline is beginning the facial reconstruction.

0:23:410:23:45

None of the four skeletons in the group has a complete skull,

0:23:450:23:50

but Caroline is hoping there are enough pieces

0:23:500:23:52

to rebuild the face of the adult male.

0:23:520:23:54

Well, we've got quite a lot of pieces

0:23:570:24:01

and it looks like, when you hold them next to each other,

0:24:010:24:05

that they do fit -

0:24:050:24:06

that piece clearly fits against there.

0:24:060:24:09

And we've got large sections that have already been reassembled

0:24:090:24:14

that need a little bit of adjustment,

0:24:140:24:17

but again, you've got other large pieces that fit.

0:24:170:24:21

But this isn't really a problem for us

0:24:210:24:23

because we can scan them with the scanner

0:24:230:24:25

and then you can see the join lines on the scan

0:24:250:24:28

and we can just adjust the piece in the computer

0:24:280:24:30

so it makes it a whole lot easier

0:24:300:24:32

than having to get rid of this glue and re-glue it.

0:24:320:24:36

But one crucial part of his skull is missing.

0:24:360:24:40

I notice we've got no nasal bones, just at the top of the nose here,

0:24:400:24:45

which are quite important in predicting the nose.

0:24:450:24:49

But that seems like the only bit of the nose that's missing,

0:24:490:24:52

so we can do some estimation from that.

0:24:520:24:54

Now that Caroline has examined the 2,000 year-old skull,

0:25:000:25:03

she will use some very 21st century technology to rebuild it.

0:25:030:25:06

Xanthe's research has indicated

0:25:150:25:18

caves were not usually used in Iron Age burial practices.

0:25:180:25:22

So, she needs to continue on the trail of investigating why a cave like Slip Gill

0:25:220:25:27

would have been significant.

0:25:270:25:30

She travels to the Dales to meet Tom Lord from Lancaster University.

0:25:300:25:33

Thank you very much.

0:25:330:25:35

And, er, we've got a rather atmospheric day to visit a cave.

0:25:350:25:38

Tom believes that for our ancestors, caves had special significance.

0:25:380:25:44

Ooh, look at this. It's certainly very dark and imposing.

0:25:440:25:50

We're going underground, literally into another world, an underworld.

0:25:500:25:55

-And is that how our ancestors would have seen this place?

-I think so.

0:25:550:25:58

-Lights on?

-Lights on.

-OK.

0:25:580:26:01

Helmet... And we're going into the underworld.

0:26:010:26:05

OK. Yes, please!

0:26:050:26:07

It gets darker, gradually.

0:26:120:26:15

It gets dark immediately, doesn't it?

0:26:150:26:18

O-K.

0:26:180:26:20

The cave is wet, it's dripping...

0:26:240:26:28

Tom has found evidence pointing to how caves were used in the Iron Age,

0:26:280:26:32

including human bones and artefacts.

0:26:320:26:35

He thinks the way in which precious objects like these were placed

0:26:350:26:39

suggests that caves were spiritually very important.

0:26:390:26:44

That's a perforated piece of red deer antler.

0:26:440:26:47

-This isn't a bone that I recognise.

-It's red deer antler.

0:26:470:26:51

If you hold it up, can you see the careful hole drilled through it?

0:26:510:26:54

You can see it's been drilled through.

0:26:540:26:57

-Its probably been on a shaft.

-Is this a weapon of some sort?

0:26:570:27:00

-It might be used as a hammer.

-Yeah.

0:27:000:27:03

And this was on a ledge about 45-feet down,

0:27:030:27:05

so it could only have been put down, it couldn't have fallen there.

0:27:050:27:09

But this would've been valuable. Someone's gone to a lot of time to make this into a hammer...

0:27:090:27:14

You're not going to leave that down a cave without good reason.

0:27:140:27:17

Tom believes valuable objects were placed in caves

0:27:170:27:20

perhaps as votive offerings, or as part of rituals.

0:27:200:27:25

What we might be seeing, down some of these deep shafts,

0:27:250:27:28

beginning about 5,000 years ago,

0:27:280:27:31

-is actual sacrifice of human and animals at certain times.

-Oh!

0:27:310:27:36

So these could be offerings to the Gods?

0:27:360:27:38

-Offering to the gods of the...

-Underworld?

-Of the underworld.

0:27:380:27:42

This idea of an underworld crops up throughout history

0:27:420:27:46

and across cultures.

0:27:460:27:48

And caves were seen as portals to a mysterious place

0:27:510:27:54

between the surface world and another.

0:27:540:27:56

Tom's evidence also suggests a new explanation

0:27:570:28:00

for how the Slip Gill individuals may have died.

0:28:000:28:03

He believes they may have been part of some kind of ritual sacrifice.

0:28:050:28:08

The archaeologists tell us

0:28:100:28:12

that there's a distinct possibility that there's a ritualistic element

0:28:120:28:16

to the way in which these individuals have landed up in these caves.

0:28:160:28:21

We unquestionably have got evidence of interpersonal violence

0:28:210:28:25

before these individuals have met their death.

0:28:250:28:28

There's some evidence of when they've gone down the pit

0:28:280:28:31

there is long-bone fracturing because of the drop,

0:28:310:28:34

but there's no evidence that those have healed.

0:28:340:28:37

If they've been alive at the bottom of the pit, it's not for very long.

0:28:370:28:40

But, you know, that's just looking at the evidence from the bones,

0:28:400:28:44

I think it's most likely that they were killed

0:28:440:28:47

before they went down the pit.

0:28:470:28:48

To test this new theory

0:28:500:28:52

that the people of Slip Gill were consciously sacrificed,

0:28:520:28:56

the bones are sent to the nearby Ninewells hospital for CT scanning.

0:28:560:29:00

This should reveal new information not visible to the naked eye.

0:29:010:29:06

The evidence already points to the adult male having fractured his leg,

0:29:060:29:12

but Sue and her colleague, Dr Roos Eisma,

0:29:120:29:15

now spot some new evidence,

0:29:150:29:17

this time on the thigh bone belonging to the adult female.

0:29:170:29:20

Look on that femur -

0:29:240:29:26

that's a beautiful butterfly-type fracture.

0:29:260:29:29

That's the kind of fracture that is green bone.

0:29:290:29:32

So it's bone that's gone down

0:29:320:29:33

that's still got all its pliability and its plasticity,

0:29:330:29:36

and it's fractured. It produces just such a different pattern.

0:29:360:29:40

So, like the other femur, I think that's a perimortem,

0:29:400:29:45

a "round about the time of death" type fracture.

0:29:450:29:48

Isn't that interesting?

0:29:480:29:49

They found exactly the same type of break

0:29:510:29:53

in the male and female adult thigh bones,

0:29:530:29:56

caused around the time of death.

0:29:560:29:58

Sue doesn't think it is just a coincidence.

0:30:000:30:02

She thinks it could point to a deliberate attempt to immobilise the two adults.

0:30:040:30:08

You know, we've got two femora now that have got perimortem trauma.

0:30:090:30:15

Why just in one bone?

0:30:150:30:18

Why is it just the leg that's broken?

0:30:180:30:22

-In more or less the same place.

-In more or less the same place, yeah.

0:30:220:30:25

It just makes you wonder

0:30:290:30:31

if that's part of the incapacitation of the individual. I don't know.

0:30:310:30:35

You don't tend to run very fast if you've got a broken leg.

0:30:350:30:38

This new evidence begs the question,

0:30:400:30:42

what method could have been used to do this?

0:30:420:30:45

Were there weapons available back then

0:30:450:30:47

which could fit this pattern of trauma?

0:30:470:30:50

And then, there is also the injury on the jaw of the teenage boy.

0:30:500:30:53

Could this tie in with those seen on the adults?

0:30:530:30:56

It could be the same implement that causes both sharp force

0:30:570:31:00

and blunt force trauma.

0:31:000:31:01

It just depends which bit you hit it with.

0:31:010:31:04

So, the back of an axe causes blunt force trauma,

0:31:040:31:07

but the front of an axe causes sharp force trauma.

0:31:070:31:10

We have what we think is evidence of sharp force trauma on the mandible,

0:31:100:31:14

so it could be the same implement that can cause it,

0:31:140:31:18

but just used in a different way.

0:31:180:31:19

The breaks to the femurs on both the adults support the idea

0:31:190:31:24

that the skeletons died at the same time

0:31:240:31:26

and, possibly, by the same method.

0:31:260:31:29

It's a breakthrough for the team.

0:31:300:31:32

This and the potentially fatal blow to the head on the teenage boy

0:31:320:31:36

now leads to new questions.

0:31:360:31:39

If we are now looking at human sacrifice, how and why did they die?

0:31:410:31:47

Xanthe takes these latest findings to Professor Miranda Aldous Green

0:31:510:31:54

from Cardiff University, an expert in Iron Age rituals.

0:31:540:31:58

She agrees that the skeletons show signs

0:32:000:32:03

of having been ritually sacrificed.

0:32:030:32:06

Given the fact that you seem to have repeated injuries

0:32:060:32:09

and given where they've been put, in a cave system,

0:32:090:32:12

that rings warning bells, in terms of possible sacrificial activity.

0:32:120:32:17

The fact that it is going on over a long time

0:32:170:32:20

suggests that this place is special

0:32:200:32:22

and particular people who have met deaths in a ritualistic way

0:32:220:32:26

may have been placed there deliberately.

0:32:260:32:28

Miranda believes that some uniquely-preserved bodies,

0:32:280:32:32

found not in caves, but in marshland

0:32:320:32:34

could offer an explanation for exactly how and why the Slip Gill individuals met their death.

0:32:340:32:40

We have a particular group of individuals, called Bog Bodies,

0:32:400:32:44

which are found in swamps or marshes all over North-West Europe.

0:32:440:32:48

A lot of them, interestingly, are quite young and show signs of traumatic injury,

0:32:480:32:55

sometimes over time, but then would lead to their death.

0:32:550:32:59

What types of injury are you seeing?

0:32:590:33:02

Well, persistently, hanging and garrotting -

0:33:020:33:06

various forms of suffocation. You do get bloodletting.

0:33:060:33:09

Some have been disembowelled, throats cut, but there

0:33:090:33:12

is this very strong evidence, from the European Iron Age

0:33:120:33:14

and into the Roman period, of people who,

0:33:140:33:17

every so often, were chosen for some reason

0:33:170:33:20

to be sacrificed in a particularly spectacular way

0:33:200:33:23

and thrust deep into a marsh.

0:33:230:33:25

So, you are looking at marsh bodies,

0:33:250:33:27

but the individuals I am looking at are from a cave.

0:33:270:33:29

-Would that be considered ritualistic?

-I think so.

0:33:290:33:32

The whole thing with bogs and caves is that they are so-called

0:33:320:33:36

liminal places, they are edgy places,

0:33:360:33:38

they are on the boundaries between the material world

0:33:380:33:41

and the world of the dead.

0:33:410:33:42

Bog bodies discovered the world over provide historians with ample evidence about human sacrifice.

0:33:460:33:52

Much of the soft tissue remains, revealing crucial forensic details.

0:33:530:33:57

One of the most famous is Lindow Man,

0:33:580:34:01

who is thought to date from the same period as the Windy Pits skeletons.

0:34:010:34:05

-Ooh, now, that's Lindow Man?

-Yes, indeed. From Cheshire.

0:34:050:34:10

Found in August, 1984, when peat-cutting was going on.

0:34:100:34:15

He was found in the peat

0:34:150:34:16

and he had been bludgeoned hard on the head twice.

0:34:160:34:18

-Right.

-And then he had been garrotted and his throat cut.

0:34:180:34:23

And he had various other traumas, as well.

0:34:230:34:26

He had been kneed in the back, as though somebody had forced him to kneel down.

0:34:260:34:30

-So, all sorts of other injuries.

-Beautifully preserved.

0:34:300:34:32

Yes. And he was probably of quite high status.

0:34:340:34:37

His moustache was very carefully trimmed,

0:34:370:34:39

using shears, which were an expensive piece of kit,

0:34:390:34:42

and his fingernails showed that he had never done any manual work.

0:34:420:34:46

He was about 25 years old, so he would have been in prime condition.

0:34:460:34:49

Who knows who he was? He could have been a hostage,

0:34:490:34:52

he could have been some kind of criminal, but more likely,

0:34:520:34:55

he had chosen to be a sacrifice, I suspect, at a time of great crisis.

0:34:550:35:00

Having studied the evidence in detail,

0:35:020:35:04

Miranda has come up with a scenario of what happened during an Iron Age human sacrifice.

0:35:040:35:08

And it all centres on the idea of overkill.

0:35:080:35:12

If you're going to sacrifice me, what are you going to do?

0:35:120:35:15

I might drug you, give you some herbs or some psychotropic substance to make you more acquiescent.

0:35:150:35:23

You might struggle otherwise.

0:35:230:35:25

-And then, I would then turn you round, away from me...

-Right.

0:35:250:35:29

..give you two hard blows on the skull. That will crack the skull,

0:35:290:35:34

by which time you are stunned, perhaps hovering on the edge of consciousness,

0:35:340:35:39

and beginning to weave around. Don't forget this is theatre.

0:35:390:35:42

-Lots of people watching.

-We're putting on a show.

-It's important.

0:35:420:35:45

The next thing I'm going to do is to garrotte you.

0:35:450:35:49

-Oh! OK.

-Twist that.

0:35:500:35:52

I'm going to leave that in place, so you are now on the verge of death, but not quite dead.

0:35:540:35:59

OK, hold that thought.

0:35:590:36:01

And then, the coup de grace. I will slit your throat.

0:36:020:36:05

And because of the garrotte, there will be a great spurt of blood

0:36:050:36:09

and a great cheer from all the community. And the sacrifice will be complete.

0:36:090:36:12

-Now, I'm dead, for sure.

-Indeed.

0:36:120:36:15

Why so many ways of doing it? You've drugged me, strangled me, now you're slitting my throat.

0:36:150:36:20

It's partly because the overkill violence is necessary

0:36:200:36:25

for the sacrifice to be really effective.

0:36:250:36:28

Look at the investment of time and trouble and effort there has been in sacrificing you.

0:36:280:36:32

But also, I've got to represent the entire community, who are sacrificing you,

0:36:320:36:37

perhaps to cleanse the community of all their sins and wickednesses and ills and pollution.

0:36:370:36:42

So if you don't have a marshy environment, you've only got the caves. What would happen then?

0:36:420:36:47

The death would happen, the killing would happen outside the cave

0:36:470:36:50

and you would then be deposited.

0:36:500:36:52

-There must be rituals and prayers and fires, perhaps feasting.

-Really?

0:36:520:36:58

All to do with sending your soul to that place where it can't do any more harm.

0:36:580:37:02

The community is cleansed.

0:37:020:37:03

And Miranda also believes that other rituals linked to sacrifice,

0:37:050:37:09

such as removing the soft tissue from a corpse,

0:37:090:37:11

can leave marks on the bones, too.

0:37:110:37:14

But the condition of the bones from Slip Gill remain a challenge

0:37:140:37:18

in the battle to resurrect a compelling scenario for how these people died.

0:37:180:37:22

Caroline's colleague Dr Chris Ryan has the task of reassembling the head of the adult male

0:37:310:37:36

before he can start work on his face.

0:37:360:37:38

Here we've got all the fragments reassembled

0:37:390:37:44

into approximately the shape of the skull.

0:37:440:37:48

As you can see, there's quite a large chunk of the right-hand side

0:37:480:37:51

of the cranium missing and some of the facial skeleton,

0:37:510:37:57

but we can....

0:37:570:37:59

Because we have the left-hand side quite intact,

0:37:590:38:02

we can estimate much of this by mirroring parts of the skull from one side to the other.

0:38:020:38:07

The green is just estimation of all the missing parts.

0:38:070:38:12

There's not enough of the mandible just to mirror it,

0:38:120:38:16

because we only have this chin area and three teeth.

0:38:160:38:21

The next stage will be to add layers of muscle and skin.

0:38:210:38:26

Soon, the face of the man who died at Slip Gill will emerge.

0:38:260:38:32

So, if our people at Slip Gill were sacrificed,

0:38:350:38:39

were they members of the local community or were they outsiders?

0:38:390:38:43

The team hopes the stable isotope analysis of the bones could shed some light on this.

0:38:450:38:50

If chemical signatures from the teeth and bones

0:38:510:38:54

are consistent with those found around the Yorkshire Moors,

0:38:540:38:57

then it will indicate the skeletons were born and then lived in the local area.

0:38:570:39:02

This could support Miranda's idea of community sacrifice.

0:39:040:39:08

Sue assembles the team for the results.

0:39:110:39:16

What they basically showed was a very good quality sample.

0:39:160:39:20

-Typical grain-based diet, almost no marine.

-OK.

0:39:200:39:23

So that's quite interesting.

0:39:230:39:25

What it also showed was that they were local to the area.

0:39:250:39:29

Now the particular band they fall closest to is actually very localised to where they were found.

0:39:290:39:35

-It makes it more likely to be ritual than, um, just vindictive.

-Yeah.

0:39:350:39:40

Yeah. I suppose it does.

0:39:400:39:42

Our Slip Gill people were locals,

0:39:420:39:44

and there was possible violence around the time of their death.

0:39:440:39:47

But if they were human sacrifices, did they offer themselves up willingly or were they executed?

0:39:470:39:53

Despite the evidence that's now building, Sue is reluctant to conclude a theory of foul play

0:40:000:40:05

until she has more proof.

0:40:050:40:07

'We're not ruling out the fact that it isn't necessarily ritual.'

0:40:100:40:13

We're not ruling out all these possibilities, because your imagination could run wild.

0:40:130:40:18

We're going to try and keep it as focused as we can.

0:40:180:40:21

As archaeologists say, got to bear ritual in mind, but what do the physicality of the bones tell us?

0:40:210:40:28

Is there anything on there that supports this or refutes it?

0:40:280:40:32

Until now, the team has focused on the four individuals from Slip Gill.

0:40:340:40:38

But 18 more skeletons were found in other Windy Pits caves around the same area.

0:40:390:40:44

Sue now turns her attention to some of these other remains.

0:40:450:40:49

It's an adult.

0:40:520:40:54

There's a lot of fracturing, so a lot of the joints have actually, where the sutures have sprung.

0:40:580:41:04

You can see that fracture again dissipating out into that suture,

0:41:040:41:09

with a lot of fracturing going on here,

0:41:090:41:12

so that the blow is to that point there.

0:41:120:41:15

So it's coming in round about here.

0:41:150:41:17

So again, I think we've got evidence in at least the three of these

0:41:190:41:23

of some form of blunt force trauma.

0:41:230:41:27

This was a male. An adult male.

0:41:270:41:29

This damage to these other skulls from a neighbouring cave

0:41:290:41:33

could mean that the other Windy Pits were used for rituals and sacrifices.

0:41:330:41:38

And as Sue starts to look at= the remains of a skeleton from yet another cave,

0:41:380:41:41

she notices some even more worrying marks on one of the shin bones.

0:41:410:41:47

This is a bit of tibia - this is a bit of the shin bone.

0:41:470:41:50

It's got a bit of damage at the top and at the bottom.

0:41:500:41:53

And there's...

0:41:540:41:55

..there's three, what looks like three...

0:41:570:42:00

..parallel lines.

0:42:030:42:05

Well, those are not natural.

0:42:060:42:09

They're not rodent activity, either.

0:42:090:42:12

Those look like they could well be knife marks,

0:42:120:42:16

or at least a sharp blade.

0:42:160:42:19

These are parallel cut marks.

0:42:190:42:22

These are...

0:42:220:42:23

..a repeat of the same action, in the same place.

0:42:240:42:28

I used to work in a butcher's shop before I started my academic career,

0:42:280:42:34

and I can remember having to take pieces of meat off cow bones and such things

0:42:340:42:39

and these are the kind of marks that you leave behind

0:42:390:42:42

as you're paring away the muscle, to take it away from the bone.

0:42:420:42:46

That may well be...

0:42:460:42:48

No, it tends to make you want to go too far,

0:42:480:42:51

because what you end up doing is you want to go down the sensationalist route

0:42:510:42:55

and the last thing forensic wants to do is go down a sensationalist route,

0:42:550:42:59

but it looks like muscle's been removed.

0:42:590:43:04

Why do you remove muscle from a human bone?

0:43:040:43:07

I don't know.

0:43:090:43:11

I think we could all surmise.

0:43:110:43:13

If these are indeed blade marks,

0:43:130:43:16

the investigation looks set to take an even more sinister direction.

0:43:160:43:21

The word that everybody wants to say

0:43:210:43:24

is the one that we're not going to say,

0:43:240:43:26

which is cannibalism, because there's no evidence of that.

0:43:260:43:30

All you have is evidence of cut marks.

0:43:300:43:32

We don't know what that meat was being used for.

0:43:320:43:35

But nevertheless. it's a chilling turn in the story.

0:43:390:43:41

Xanthe wants to establish what cutting marks on bone could mean

0:43:410:43:47

and travels to Oxford University to meet Dr Rick Shulting,

0:43:470:43:50

an expert in prehistoric archaeology.

0:43:500:43:53

If I saw these kind of marks on an animal bone, I would think butchery.

0:43:530:43:57

But this is human,

0:43:570:43:58

so why are we getting these marks on a human leg bone?

0:43:580:44:01

It's unlikely that they were eating the flesh of this person,

0:44:010:44:06

like you would with an animal, because we have

0:44:060:44:08

questionable evidence for cannibalism at this time here.

0:44:080:44:11

If this was in the Neolithic, we might think of, sort of, trying to

0:44:110:44:16

deflesh the bones to make them clean, as a part of joining the ancestors.

0:44:160:44:21

But how does removing the soft tissue from the bones

0:44:210:44:24

help people go to their ancestors more quickly?

0:44:240:44:26

Some people in different times and parts of the world, believed that

0:44:260:44:30

death is a process and it's not complete until the putrefaction

0:44:300:44:35

of the body is completed and you're left with the clean bones.

0:44:350:44:38

And at that point, the soul, if you speak of it as that,

0:44:380:44:41

ascends to the ancestors.

0:44:410:44:42

And sometimes there is an interest in hastening that process

0:44:420:44:46

by disarticulation and defleshing.

0:44:460:44:48

According to Rick, the practice of removing flesh

0:44:490:44:52

is unlikely to be a sign of cannibalism,

0:44:520:44:55

but was a way of allowing the dead to cross over to the next world.

0:44:550:44:58

But there were also more sinister explanations.

0:44:580:45:02

We have to be open to various possibilities.

0:45:030:45:05

Some of them might deal with

0:45:050:45:07

the negative side of things, the dark side, if you will.

0:45:070:45:10

And there is some evidence for slightly strange

0:45:100:45:13

and odd things going on with human remains in the Iron Age

0:45:130:45:16

in different parts of Britain

0:45:160:45:18

that sometimes involve taking the body apart

0:45:180:45:22

and moving bits of it around.

0:45:220:45:23

The skull, especially, seems to receive special treatment.

0:45:230:45:26

So the cutting marks could fit in with the idea

0:45:300:45:33

of ritual dismemberment after death.

0:45:330:45:35

But how would the marks have been caused?

0:45:350:45:38

To find out, Xanthe and Rick head to a local butcher.

0:45:380:45:40

It is just about free.

0:45:440:45:45

Let me just take off the last few bits.

0:45:450:45:48

Now, actually you can see I have left some marks all along that edge.

0:45:480:45:53

You can see all of my butchery marks going along there.

0:45:530:45:56

Would I use a tool like this to get rid of the rest of this soft tissue,

0:45:560:46:00

which I have, kind of, left behind?

0:46:000:46:02

Possibly, but the other possibility is a stone tool might be used,

0:46:020:46:06

which we know people were still making and using in the Iron Age.

0:46:060:46:09

So kind of scraping it. That would save my knife.

0:46:090:46:12

I do have something with me that we could have a go with.

0:46:120:46:14

Save your lovely sharp blade.

0:46:140:46:17

It's not necessarily the sharpest, but it does have one nice edge here,

0:46:170:46:21

and you'll get a sense of what it's like to use that.

0:46:210:46:24

So I am going to hold this nice and steady, I guess,

0:46:240:46:27

and then just, what, scrape the soft tissue off?

0:46:270:46:31

You need to get a good hold of it, don't you?

0:46:310:46:33

There we go. It's actually pretty efficient. I am quite impressed.

0:46:340:46:40

Much sharper than I expected.

0:46:400:46:41

That's where a lot of the muscle attachments are joining to the bone,

0:46:490:46:52

just around the ends and, of course,

0:46:520:46:55

that's exactly where we saw them on the human bone.

0:46:550:46:57

You can actually see now,

0:46:570:46:59

I've left some quite deep grooves.

0:46:590:47:01

Xanthe has produced exactly the same marks on the pig bone

0:47:040:47:07

that she found on the human leg bone.

0:47:070:47:10

Rick wants to demonstrate one very specialised type of defleshing -

0:47:100:47:14

removing the skin from a person's scalp.

0:47:140:47:17

-All the way up?

-All the way up.

0:47:170:47:20

Why would you do that to a human head?

0:47:200:47:23

The head is very important in many societies.

0:47:230:47:26

We have a good case for it being important in Iron Age Britain

0:47:260:47:29

and Iron Age Europe, in general.

0:47:290:47:31

Are there any examples from the UK where the soft tissue has been moved from the head?

0:47:310:47:36

There's a few cases. There's one from St Albans,

0:47:360:47:40

where they seem to have had a defleshed head, in a place quite near a temple complex, actually,

0:47:400:47:45

which maybe speaks again of why you're doing this.

0:47:450:47:47

The idea of trophy heads or, possibly, as a punishment.

0:47:470:47:51

We have another case up in the north of Scotland, on the Moray Firth,

0:47:510:47:54

-where again, we have a child, in this case.

-Oh, really?

0:47:540:47:58

It looks like the skull has been cleaned back,

0:47:580:48:00

so they are interested in having this white clean bone to display, presumably.

0:48:000:48:04

So, it's really rare?

0:48:040:48:06

It is. There aren't many cases. It's not a normal practice,

0:48:060:48:09

so it's a very special person, or somebody that's done something

0:48:090:48:12

terribly wrong, or being made an example of.

0:48:120:48:15

Xanthe has discovered that de-fleshing the dead

0:48:150:48:20

was practised in Iron Age Britain.

0:48:200:48:22

Sometimes, it was associated with funerary ritual,

0:48:220:48:25

but maybe it served another purpose.

0:48:250:48:27

Human skeletal remains recovered from Windy Pits

0:48:300:48:33

show that some individuals most likely met a violent end,

0:48:330:48:36

possibly as part of a ritual sacrifice.

0:48:360:48:39

We know that at least one person had their flesh cut from the bone,

0:48:390:48:43

before ending up in a cave

0:48:430:48:45

waiting to be discovered thousands of years later.

0:48:450:48:47

Until now, all the people whose bones were found

0:48:500:48:53

in the caves on the moors have remained anonymous.

0:48:530:48:56

But finally, the face of one of them is taking shape...

0:48:580:49:03

The adult male from Slip Gill.

0:49:030:49:06

Our biggest problem with this skull was that it was

0:49:060:49:09

in multiple fragments and we didn't have very much of the mandible.

0:49:090:49:13

So Chris has done a fantastic job at reconstructing the mandible, from just a bit of chin,

0:49:130:49:18

which is remarkable. And getting the whole of the cranium together

0:49:180:49:22

in lots of pieces is also quite a difficult job.

0:49:220:49:25

From that, it's the same process as it would be for any reconstruction -

0:49:250:49:29

building the muscles and putting skin on.

0:49:290:49:31

So, the biggest challenge was the state of the skull.

0:49:310:49:34

Well, let's have a look at the skin.

0:49:340:49:37

And he's turning into an interesting-looking individual.

0:49:370:49:41

Wow, that's not what I was expecting to see, at all.

0:49:410:49:44

He actually looks quite masculine, really,

0:49:440:49:49

and I wasn't expecting him to look that masculine.

0:49:490:49:52

Cos the top of his head is quite... gracile really, isn't it?

0:49:520:49:57

And then he's got this big heavy jaw at the bottom.

0:49:570:49:59

And really small ears. Why really small ears?

0:49:590:50:03

-Small ears, small nose, height wise.

-I quite like him.

-Good.

0:50:030:50:10

We've got a pretty reasonable face

0:50:120:50:14

out of really quite badly-conditioned skull.

0:50:140:50:18

The completion of the facial reconstruction

0:50:200:50:22

marks the end of the investigation.

0:50:220:50:25

The team will now report their findings to the local community.

0:50:260:50:29

Xanthe and Sue have come to Duncombe House, not far from the Windy Pits.

0:50:350:50:39

They're here to return the skeletal remains to the local archaeologists

0:50:410:50:44

and to present the case results.

0:50:440:50:48

Although they've made great strides,

0:50:480:50:51

Sue is concerned that they don't have enough evidence on the bones

0:50:510:50:54

to confirm that the man of Slip Gill was sacrificed.

0:50:540:50:57

Xanthe has gone away and done a lot of historical research

0:51:010:51:04

with a lot of people who know a lot about this area.

0:51:040:51:06

So we've gone back to the Slip Gill skeletons,

0:51:060:51:10

we've had a look through them again, just to be sure, just to be certain.

0:51:100:51:16

Sue looks at the Slip Gill remains one last time...

0:51:190:51:24

..and she notices something on the skull of the adult male that they missed before.

0:51:270:51:33

What have you found?

0:51:340:51:36

I don't know, but... This is sitting there.

0:51:360:51:44

-There's one line cut mark along there...

-It's quite deep.

0:51:440:51:47

-There's another below it.

-Yep.

0:51:470:51:49

And another one below that.

0:51:490:51:52

Sue has found several parallel cutting lines

0:51:520:51:55

around the top of the skull.

0:51:550:51:57

You have a cut mark that is - if I turn you round a bit -

0:51:590:52:03

you have got cut marks that are coming here

0:52:030:52:05

and then some that are back there.

0:52:050:52:07

It looks like Sue has detected signs of scalping on the adult male.

0:52:090:52:13

As Xanthe discovered, this practice of removing hair and skin

0:52:150:52:19

from the top of the head did happen in Iron Age Britain

0:52:190:52:22

and may have been part of ritualised killings.

0:52:220:52:25

For Sue, it's enough to finally to bring the events

0:52:330:52:36

surrounding the death of this man into focus.

0:52:360:52:39

I'm not a great supporter of defleshing and sacrifice and ritual, all sorts of things,

0:52:410:52:47

as anyone will tell you that knows me.

0:52:470:52:49

But sometimes, when you're faced with information

0:52:490:52:52

'and you go through all the possible outcomes,'

0:52:520:52:55

sometimes there's only one left.

0:52:550:52:57

These findings will have an even deeper significance for the local community

0:53:000:53:05

and the experts who have been studying the remains for decades.

0:53:050:53:08

We've waited a long time to get some more information about the remains from the Windy Pits,

0:53:080:53:13

so this is very important.

0:53:130:53:14

There's lots of unknown questions that, hopefully, we'll get some answers to today.

0:53:140:53:20

Sue and Xanthe explain the twists and turns in the case

0:53:270:53:30

that led to the conclusion that this was not a natural burial.

0:53:300:53:33

Did they go up there knowing what was going to happen to them?

0:53:350:53:39

Or did they go up there in some way incapacitated?

0:53:390:53:42

They're not being used as a normal deposition site for burials, so...

0:53:420:53:49

..potentially caused by that, because it does fit there

0:53:490:53:52

really rather nicely.

0:53:520:53:54

Then the moment comes for Sue to announce her last-minute discovery.

0:53:550:53:59

It takes an incredible amount of persuasion

0:53:590:54:02

for me to want to talk about sacrificing people to gods

0:54:020:54:07

and placing them down portals, so they don't come back.

0:54:070:54:11

It just makes me uncomfortable. But then, this morning,

0:54:110:54:15

we had a look a little bit closer at some of the areas,

0:54:150:54:19

as we were laying out the skeletons, and we came across something that we hadn't noticed before.

0:54:190:54:24

And it was all to do with this man.

0:54:240:54:28

On this man, and on his head only, we have evidence of defleshing.

0:54:280:54:34

We have parallel scratch marks that are of a similar width

0:54:370:54:42

in various parts across his skull. They're very, very delicate,

0:54:420:54:46

but they are there. If they're defleshing,

0:54:460:54:51

for whatever reason, they're only defleshing around the head,

0:54:510:54:57

almost in the sense of a scalping. The defleshing isn't on the face

0:54:570:55:01

and it isn't on the back of the head. It's just around the area of the crown.

0:55:010:55:05

-So they put a blade in and just scrape?

-Scrape.

0:55:050:55:09

The cutting marks on the skull are the final piece of evidence

0:55:110:55:14

that at least one of the Slip Gill skeletons was almost certainly ritually killed.

0:55:140:55:19

It's a terrifying story.

0:55:210:55:22

We have placed him into an environment

0:55:220:55:25

which is a really rather scary, spooky sort of place,

0:55:250:55:29

that must have had some importance in the local community.

0:55:290:55:32

He's been taken there, perhaps immobilised,

0:55:320:55:36

he's been murdered, one can assume, whether by one people or by a community,

0:55:360:55:40

and then he's gone through a ritual removal of his scalp.

0:55:400:55:46

So his scalp has been scraped away.

0:55:460:55:48

But now, it's time for the team to reveal the face of the man whose life ended in such violence.

0:55:500:55:57

Because we only have one skull,

0:55:570:56:00

there was only one face we were able to reconstruct.

0:56:000:56:03

So do we want to see what he looked like?

0:56:030:56:05

ALL: Yes.

0:56:050:56:06

Yeah. Go on, then.

0:56:060:56:07

He has quite a rugged face, hasn't he?

0:56:240:56:26

He looks like he was a pretty robust individual, doesn't he?

0:56:260:56:30

I quite like him. Slight asymmetry in the orbits.

0:56:300:56:35

Quite highly-defined cheekbones.

0:56:350:56:37

If you were walking round Helmsley today

0:56:370:56:39

and saw someone looking like that, you wouldn't look twice, would you?

0:56:390:56:46

When you think what he may have gone through

0:56:480:56:50

and you have to ask, why was he chosen?

0:56:500:56:53

What was so important about him? Was it because he was important in the area that he was selected?

0:56:530:57:00

We will never know. That is about conjecture.

0:57:000:57:03

But what we do know is that he suffered blunt-force trauma,

0:57:030:57:07

we know that his skull was defleshed.

0:57:070:57:12

Following the story and hearing more today,

0:57:170:57:20

it's been absolutely fascinating. It's filled in a lot of the picture.

0:57:200:57:23

That was really amazing, absolutely fascinating.

0:57:230:57:27

The facial reconstruction was wonderful.

0:57:270:57:30

The actual face brought it all very much home.

0:57:300:57:34

He's a very human face and why did they do to him what they did?

0:57:340:57:38

The possibility remains that the other skeletons found with this man

0:57:380:57:43

also met the same tragic end.

0:57:430:57:45

We've added a dimension to this that we never anticipated we would.

0:57:470:57:52

And it's a first for me. I've never been involved in something

0:57:520:57:56

that has involved this sort of a ritual, if you like.

0:57:560:58:00

It does still make me uncomfortable, I really don't like the words,

0:58:000:58:03

but at the end of the day, the bones have the evidence

0:58:030:58:06

and the evidence speaks for itself.

0:58:060:58:09

The human remains presented to the team were not a recent discovery,

0:58:110:58:15

but it took modern forensics to bring back to life

0:58:150:58:18

a tragic story that's 2,000 years old.

0:58:180:58:21

Next time... The team's biggest challenge yet.

0:58:250:58:27

100 skeletons found in York. The trail provides a new perspective

0:58:270:58:31

on the English Civil War...

0:58:310:58:33

In the last battle between Christ and the forces of Anti-Christ...

0:58:330:58:37

..through one man's extraordinary battle to survive.

0:58:370:58:40

-That is outrageous.

-If I take it off at the shoulder, you will die.

0:58:400:58:44

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:59:040:59:07

E-mail [email protected]

0:59:070:59:11

Professor Sue Black and her team use forensic science to shed light on the past.

For decades experts have remained baffled by a jumble of human bones discovered in a unique series of caves on the North York Moors, known as the Windypits. One discovery in particular stands out - a tangle of bones that might belong to a family from two thousand years ago.

The trail to uncover answers about what happened to these people leads to a dark world of ritual sacrifice and right back to the limits of British recorded history.