Stirling Castle knight identified and reconstructed

A team of forensic anthropologists have reconstructed the battle-scarred face of a 14th century knight unearthed at Stirling Castle in Scotland. You can clearly see the dent in his head from that axe wound to the skull he survived, and his not-so-great teeth.

Computer reconstructed face of Stirling Castle knight, d. 1341

The knight was found in 1997 along with other skeletons buried under the floor of the lost chapel of James IV, the oldest known building in the castle dating back to the early 1100s. It’s only recently that technology has been able to provide us with the goods on him.

Forensic analysis of his bones indicates he was raised in southern England and was in his mid-20s when he died. The team also found out that the sword blow that sliced through his nose and jaw wasn’t the most likely cause of death. Instead it was probably a Scottish arrow shot during an attack on the castle that killed him.

The most surprising find, however, is documentation that strongly points to his actual identity. Earlier speculation was that he might have been Robert Morley, killed in tournament at Stirling Castle in 1388. The fatal arrow wound doesn’t really fit the tournament death scenario, though, and the skeleton of a woman found next to him with her skull smashed in by a mace also suggests full-on ruthless assault rather than war games.

Documents uncovered by the team showed that Sir John, a Buckinghamshire lord, was a senior member of the garrison. He died on 10 October 1341 and his family line has since died out.

Prof Black said piecing together the potential identity of the knight was “absolutely unexpected”.

“When you start with something that was less than optimal, the chances of getting it back to even a possible name is much better that we could even have expected.”

However the identity of the woman buried next to him will probably never be known as women were not deemed important enough for their deaths to be recorded.

The research will go on permanent display at Stirling Castle next year. Historic Scotland, the organization that curates the castle, is also commissioning further study on the 10 skeletons found along with Sir John.

12 thoughts on “Stirling Castle knight identified and reconstructed

  1. That is pretty awesome! I just wondering how accurate that image is … even if it isn’t as accurate as many might hope, it is still cool to put a face to a previously unknown knight.

    1. It seems to me they at least couldn’t know eye color and hair length for sure, right? Perhaps the documentation they found helped with some description.

  2. It seems silly to give him a shaved head if that isn’t confirmed by anything actually found; since hair was considered a factor of major sex appeal then, not only in women but also in men, who not only wore it long (shoulder length), but even at times curled it elaborately, at least on the continent at this period. But of course, then as now, tastes were also individual. However, this looks like the present fad instead of the 13th century. This is a guy at the fitness centre, not a knight!

    I make this remark because I get pissed off by the recent “medieval” films such as Scott’s new Robin Hood with an unshaven-and-crew cut-Crowe, which would have made him positively unsexy to a lady at the time. The long hair was really a knightly trade mark.
    So this feature of several historical films of now just ruins the illusion instantly to me. How can they fail at such a conspicious point when they do take some care at least as to weapons and clothes? Sigh!

    1. Well, they’re reconstructing from his skull, so perhaps they didn’t want to get into the realm of pure imagination by pinpointing his hair color and style. That isn’t information you can glean from a skull.

      Besides, maybe he had a bad case of lice that necessitated drastic measures. 😉

  3. Maybe they are just closing in on the face and shape of head, NOT an actual look of the day. No one on this team who helped give the Knight his face back was trying to implement Hollywood, why get mad at them and those who gave the guy a face? Also if given long flowing hair as in the day then his scars would not be as prominent. I think it’s great and who cares what his hair would have looked like?

  4. Umm the focus is on the face not his hair and a lot of men did shave there heads back then cause of lice Hollywood just gives you a romanticize version people were dirty and nasty back then

  5. “Long flowing hair?” I would imagine then, as now, there would be premature male pattern baldness. There was a kid in my class who started going bald by 10th grade! I, on the other hand, am now 30 years old, and have just as full a head of hair and just as dark as I had when I was 12. Who’s to say that he could have been balding, and just simply shaved his head in order not to show it? And yes, many men certainly did shave their heads, even then.

  6. Incredible! I am the 20x great granddaughter. I followed my grandfather. Alfred John Morley directly to Robert Morley knight. Will have to visit him in Sterling castle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.