Back in 1872, humans bones and associated remains were uncovered by workmen within a stone-lined chambered cairn, the oldest structure in Stirling, central Scotland. And while the site is now surrounded by modern residences in Coney Park, the bones hark back to a period of circa 2152 to 2021 BC – as was concluded by a recent radiocarbon analysis. In essence, the new findings establish that this deceased male hailing from the Bronze Age, given the moniker of Torbrex Tam, can be perceived as the oldest known resident of Stirling. Torbrex in itself refers to the smaller settlement southwest of the main city area.
The recent assessment of Torbrex Tam was also complemented by a facial reconstruction, as a result of a collaborative effort between Stirling archaeologist Dr. Murray Cook, Michael McGinnes of Stirling’s Smith Art Gallery and Museum, and Dundee University forensic art and facial identification graduate Emily McCulloch. Dr. Cook said –
Torbrex Tam died around 2152 to 2021 BC. He is more than 4000 years old. He’s the oldest individual from Stirling and his facial reconstruction is Stirling’s first recorded face. For anyone from Stirling, Tam is their oldest ancestor. I’m sure I’ve seen his face in people around the town.
Now while the original discovery was made in 1872, a second excavation of the chambered cairn was made hundred years later, in 1972, by members of the Stirling Archaeological Society. And this focused endeavor result in even more fascinating discoveries in the form of a separate cist (stone-lined box) containing the remains of a woman in her 20s and a pot that had the remains of a four-year-old child. In allusion to such poignant findings, Dr. Cook said explained –
At the time, average life expectancy was probably mid to late 20s; life was short, nasty and brutish. Infant mortality was high. What we have here is probably an extended family. There are a number of other burials in the immediate environs.
He also added –
I think the cairn is a family vault that’s been in use for a period of between 200 and 500 years. Different generations would have been buried in the cairn. However, it’s difficult to know if Tam and the bones thought to be female are man and wife. They could have been, but they could be brother and sister. The child is unlikely to be theirs, but it might be a grandchild or great-grandchild.