The Queen of the Inch

Queen of the Inch imageThe Queen of the Inch Necklace and Facial reconstruction.

In 1960 Dorothy Marshall excavated a group of three cists discovered on the island of Inchmarnock. One of the cists contained the burial of a woman who Miss Marshall named ‘The Queen of the Inch’. The lignite necklace and flint knife found with her have been very important exhibits in the Museum collection since then.

As archaeological techniques have advanced greatly in the intervening years, it was decided to take the necklace off display and have it re-examined and restrung. Dr Alison Sheridan of the NMS in Edinburgh undertook this work. When the necklace was returned it had been reclassified as a jet spacer-plate necklace; there were lignite beads present but these were replacements for missing jet beads. The necklace had originated in Whitby and, by the time it was buried on Inchmarnock, it had been reconstructed out of several different necklaces. The work done by Dorothy Marshall was of the highest quality at the time and she would have been delighted to see the restrung jet necklace, which now has the more solid appearance of the gold collars of the Bronze Age.

Following the success of the work on the necklace, it was decided to re-excavate the cist and apply the same advanced techniques to the skeleton. Dr Alison Sheridan, Jessica Middleton and Anne Speirs undertook this work in 2006. This time the excavators had the help of a mechanical digger to raise the capstone. The subsequent bone analysis produced a radiocarbon date of around 2000BC. Isotope analysis of the bone indicated that she lived on a land-based rather than marine diet and strontium and oxygen isotope analyses of tooth enamel were compatible with an origin on an island off the West coast of Scotland, so she was born locally.

Having found out so much about her, it was decided to find out what she would have looked like. Dr Caroline Wilkinson, a forensic anthropologist from Dundee University, created a facial reconstruction from the re-excavated skull and photographs of the skeleton from the original excavation. In this way the Queen of the Inch has now been reunited with her necklace. The completed display was unveiled in 2008 by Lord Robert Smith, owner of Inchmarnock, whose generous support was crucial to the success of the project.