Meeting the Ancestor
A skull which is thought to belong to a 1st or 2nd century Roman soldier has had its face reconstructed more than 150 years after it was discovered by workers building the Waverley railway line near Trimontium (the Roman Fort at the foot of the three Eildon Hills) in the Scottish Borders. He was found at the bottom of a well and died under suspicious circumstances as his skeleton was found ‘erect or nearly so’ with a spearhead by his side. His reappearance was made possible by the enthusiasm of the local Trimontium Trust who gathered sponsorships and donations to find the collaborative reconstruction of this Trimontium residents face. Mr Donald Gordon, honorary secretary of the Trust said ‘He will be an important item in the exhibits in the Trimontium Museum in Melrose and we hope the public will want to come along and meet him’.
Dr John Reid, Chairman of the Trimontium Trust, and consultant radiologist at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose, proposed the reconstruction: ‘I suggested to the Trustees that we ask the advice of Dr Ian Macleod of the Edinburgh Dental Institute who helped reconstruct the face of Robert the Bruce’. With his advice the skull came from the National Museum of Scotland, who supported the venture, to begin the reconstruction process by having a CT scan at the Borders General Hospital. It travelled under the watchful eye of Fraser Hunter, curator of Roman Antiquities, who said ‘It’s a rare thrill to see the dry bones of this Roman brought back. to life. It reminds us of the people behind Roman Scotland.’
On its journey of reconstruction the electronic data for the skull travelled from Melrose to Wales where the University of Cardiff has a medical modelling facility which can produce an exact replica of any human skull. Then to Dr Caroline Wilkinson, Medical Artist, at the University of Manchester to put ‘flesh’ back on the bones:’ Sometimes we end up with a rather bland image. This man’s skull was in good condition and the face produced has, I feel, some personality and character’.
Walter Elliot, Past Chairman of the Trimontium Trust, expressed his delight. ‘We are very grateful to the many organisations who contributed funding for this reconstruction including the National Fund for Acquisitions; the local William Hill Trust; the Russell Trust and the Tweed Forum Heritage Lottery Fund. We would also like to thank Dr Richard Bibb at the National Centre for Product Design and Development Research at the University of Wales who collaborated with the technicians of Vantico Limited (who donated the material for the plastic model) to create the exact replica using the technique of stereolithography. We hope that the public will come to see Trio Montanus Vertex, as we have named him, at the Trimontium Exhibition.
Did he fall down the pit, or was he pushed?