A Preserved Head of Hair from Romsey Abbey, UK: Scientific Investigation
Wednesday 12 April, 2017
Last October Jamie Cameron (University of Oxford), member of the Relics Cluster, gave a talk about his scientific work on a preserved head of hair. Find here a summary of it.
The initiative for this scientific investigation, perfect for Halloween evening, stems from Jamie Cameron’s childhood. Namely, he grew up hearing “weird and wonderful” stories about the mysterious head of hair from Romsey Abbey, and after studying archaeology came back to investigate the artefact of his childhood obsession. The main questions he and his team were asking were: time of burial, person's age and diet, and lastly the nature of black residue found on the inside of the scalp. Previously, sources differed on the age of coffin and time of the burial, however, he was able to date the burial at around 776-970 AD. Using stable isotope analysis, it was further established that the person used a significant quantity of fish in their diet, indicating a monastic lifestyle. Summing up, Jamie pointed out everything his team found out so far: the initial coffin was from lead and wood, buried close to the Abbey, in mid to late Saxon era, and the residue is pine resin. The session finished with a lively discussion about the next steps in the investigation, and a conclusion about iPhone to 3D printing being a fantastic and useful tool for forensic anthropology and archaeology.
Note written by M.E.