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THE CEMETERY OF NUNRAW, EAST LOTHIAN. BY THE HON.
During the process of ploughing a field on the property of Col. W. W. Gray of Nunraw, in the parish of Garvald, East Lothian, a cemetery was brought to light. The field lies on the top of the right bank of the burn which flows past the village of Garvald, and is exactly opposite it
Fig. 1. The field from which the bones were exhumed.
(fig. 1). I made my first visit on 21st December 1903, and again in company with Mr Pirrie, assistant-demonstrator to Professor Cunningham, on 23rd February 1904. As the weather was very inclement on both occasions, I am indebted to Mr James Boucher, schoolmaster in Garvald, for the use of his notes in addition to my own.
Altogether twenty-four graves were discovered, lying in five rows from 9 to 10 feet apart. These graves consisted of stone cists constructed of thin slabs of red sandstone. In nearly every case the covering-stones had
been broken by the ploughshare in previous ploughings and had been removed, as they lay only a few inches below the surface. The long sides, the covering and the paved floor of the cists, were formed of two slabs each, and the short ends of a single slab (fig. 2). The form of the cist was not always a parallelogram, but was sometimes coffin-shaped.
Fig. 2. One of the Cists laid open and emptied.
Some of the measurements were 6 feet by 15 inches; 5 feet 2 inches long by 14 inches wide at the head and 10 inches at the foot, but 17 inches at the widest part; 6 feet long by 12 inches at the head, 9 inches at the foot, and 17 inches at the widest part; 5 feet 3 inches long by 18 inches at the head and 12 inches at the foot; 5 feet 9 inches long by 14 inches at the head, 13 inches at the foot, and 8 inches deep.
A child's grave measured 3 feet 10 inches long by 1 foot 1 inch at the head and 9 inches at the foot.
Each cist was full of fine red soil and contained a skeleton lying on its back with the head to the west and the feet to the east. No relic of any kind was discovered with any of the interments, though the earth in the coffins was well searched and the bones were picked out with the greatest care by Mr Pirrie.
From the absence of any relic it is impossible to determine with accuracy the date of this cemetery. But Professor Cunningham informs me that, judging from the condition of the bones, it cannot be of ancient date, certainly not earlier than the Christian Period.
Nunraw, as its name implies, was formerly the site of a nunnery; so at first sight it seemed probable that the cemetery was in connection with such an establishment. But, judging from the number of male skeletons and from the child's grave it has yielded, this hypothesis must be abandoned. A very similar cemetery of fifty-one cists, disposed in nine rows, was discovered some years ago near the Catstane, Kirkliston, West Lothian, and is described in P.S.A.S., vi. 184-198.
Subjoined is a valuable detailed anatomical report on the human remains by Mr Pirrie.
REPORT ON THE HUMAN REMAINS FROM NUNRAW, EAST LOTHIAN. By
In framing this report, the bones from each cist have been described separately, as so many "Lots," each lot being from a separate cist. There are in all thirteen lots, which were exhumed on two occasions. On the first occasion, four lots were forwarded for examination. They were from the highest part of the cemetery, and were in better preservation than those exhumed later. They also included the interesting thigh bone which evidences marks of syphilis. This is remarkable when taken in connection with the fact that the earliest recorded appearance
of syphilis in Europe is assigned by Simpson to the close of the fifteenth. century.1
On the second occasion on which bones were exhumed, the findings were not so well preserved, as they were not interred in such dry soil, Nevertheless they have yielded several points of anthropological interest such as are seen in characteristics and configurations associated with the races of bye-gone days, or with the lowest savages of the present time. It is noteworthy that caries of the teeth is completely absent in this series, notwithstanding that the majority of the teeth are ground flat with use.
At the end there is a short summary giving some of the more important conclusions as to sex, age, etc., with references to the detailed description in the text.
The bones are to be seen in the Anatomy Department, University of Edinburgh.
LOT No. 1.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION.-A thigh-bone of great interest, as it depends upon the date assigned by the archæologists to the burying-ground whether this is not the earliest specimen of syphilis on record, for on the lower part of the bone there are undeniable marks of syphilis. Otherwise the bone shows some degree of platymery, and a high degree of carination, both being_characters frequently associated with the femora of prehistoric races of man. It is a bone of an adult, but not aged person, probably of the female sex.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION.-The right femur. It does not present senile characters, and it is on the whole rather slender. At the lower third of the shaft it shows an oval thickening, rough behind, but smooth in front, pronouncedly syphilitic (fig. 3).
Length (maximum) (oblique) Platymery well marked.
Index of platymery: Carination prominent. Pilastric index:
21 × 100
28 × 100
(probably); fully adult; syphilitic.
1 Archæological Essays, by the late Sir James Y. Simpson, Bart., M.D., D.C.L, edited by John Stuart, LL.D., 1872, vol. ii. p. 303.
LOT NO. 2.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION.-A large number of fragments taken from one cist. The bones being very brittle, are in small fragments. They are the bones of a well-developed male of middle age.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION.-The bones consist of: (1) parts of skull;
Fig. 4. Thigh-bones, right and left, from Lot 2, showing marked flattening at upper ends, i.e. Platymery. (Both front view.)
Fig. 3. Thigh-bone with thickening at
b. Postero-internal view.
(2) 2 vertebræ ; (3) humerus (right and left); (4) clavicle; (5) radius and ulna; (6) femora ; (7) tibiæ and fibula; (8) fragments.
(1) Skull.--Inferior maxilla (right ramus and upper part of left ramus lacking). It is a narrow bone with pointed chin. Genial tubercles are well marked. It is a strong and heavy bone. The teeth (5 molars and 2 premolars), are all worn flat on the surface but exhibit no caries.