Revealed: The Face of One of Scotland's Oldest Druids, Who Lived to Double the Normal Life Expectancy

The face of one of Scotland's oldest druids has been revealed. The woman, who has been nicknamed Hilda, was about 60 when she died 2,000 years ago—almost double the average life expectancy of the time.

The reconstruction was carried out by Karen Fleming, a student in Forensic Art & Facial Identification at the University of Dundee. Hilda's skull had been held at The University of Edinburgh's Anatomical Museum. She was one of the six "Druids of the Hebrides" that were presented to the Edinburgh Phrenological Society 200 years ago.

Scientists were unable to carry out carbon dating to find out exactly when she died, but information from a journal published in 1833 says she lived at some point between 55 BC to 400 AD and was Celtic. She was from Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis—an island to the northwest of mainland Scotland.

"Hilda was a fascinating character to recreate," Fleming said in a statement. "It's clear from the skull she was toothless before she died, which isn't too surprising considering the diet of folk back then but it was impressive how long she lived. A female's life expectancy at this time was roughly 31 years but it is now thought that living longer during the Iron Age is indicative of a privileged background...I think she looks like many older women I've met in my life and I'm proud of that."

Speaking to the BBC, Fleming explained how she recreated Hilda's face from wax. She said she started with facial muscles, then started to build up the skin until it was a face. "There's measurement taken for the skull and the ears and if they have teeth you can measure for the lips."

The druids are thought to have been a group of people among the ancient Celts who would have been leaders in religion and medicine. Very little is known about them—as Fleming points out: "There are no reliable facts to prove that they even existed or the way that they were portrayed in classical literature."

Ronald Hutton, professor of history at Bristol University, told the BBC there would have been druids in Scotland—the word "druid" means a person who practices religious or magic in the Celtic language they spoke at the time. "The problem is knowing what the word actually means in practice," he is quoted as saying. "Because there are a lot of Celtic languages spoken by a lot of Celtic people from the Iron Age, it can mean all sorts of things from somebody who's a blacksmith who dabbles in magic on the side."

He also told the BBC there are known to have been female druids, but they were unlikely to have been authoritative figures in society: "In Celtic-speaking societies you can have druids with everything from really important decisive figures in society to somebody sitting in a tavern reading palms, they're both druids."

Revealed: The Face of One of Scotland's Oldest Druids, Who Lived to Double the Normal Life Expectancy | Tech & Science