Clarissa Johal: Thoughtful Thursday-Naming the Bones

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Naming the Bones

I read a news story last Friday night and can't seem to get it out of my head. Have you ever done that? I keep scouring the internet for updates and end up rereading the same story, over and over. In a scramble of rewrites and edits on a book I'm trying to finish by the end of the month, I don’t need to be doing this.

It seems they found a 900-year-old murder victim in an archaeological dig at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, Scotland. The man's remains are dated from the 12th or 13th century and, from what forensics can assess, he was fatally stabbed four times in the back, twice in the left shoulder and twice in the ribs. The accuracy of the wounds suggest a degree of professionalism and calculation in the killing. Judging by the marks left on the bones, the weapon was probably a specialist military weapon. It's unclear whether he suffered any further injuries, because his legs and some of the right side of the body were missing. The archaeologists say the man was over 20-years-old, had a slightly better build than average, and had wear to his shoulder, which suggests he might have been an archer.

When I read this news story, I got teary-eyed. It was late and I'd been working on my rewrites, so perhaps I was tired. But I kept wondering what could have possibly happened. Was it a military death? A brawl gone wrong? Did someone want something he had? They found artifacts that suggest a community lived at the site. Did anyone miss him? Was someone waiting for him to come home, only to have him never show? The news story mentions he'll be reburied, but he cannot be identified. And without a name, the grave will be unmarked. I keep envisioning forensic specialists, archaeologists and everyone involved, all analyzing, poking and prodding at this man's remains. Carbon-dating his bones, assessing the size, shape and relative positions of the injuries--scientific analysis of an event in history.
On a man with no name. A man that had a life.

So, that's what's been occupying my thoughts, as of late. To the point of distraction. There's a story in there somewhere, but I have to yet figure out what it is. I've given him a name though. Or he's given it to me. I dreamed he tapped me on the shoulder and whispered it in my ear. I wrote it down and it sits in my story file--waiting for him to tell me his story.

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