Monday, 27 July 2009

Shetland's Gunnister Man - conference details

From our friends in Shetland:

Shetland Museum and Archives Announces Dates for Gunnister Man Conference

To coincide with the loan of the Gunnister Man artefacts from National Museums Scotland, the Shetland Museum and Archives is holding a conference to explore the mystery surrounding the Gunnister Man on the 18th and 19th September 2009.

On 12th May 1951, two Shetlanders were cutting peat near Gunnister, Northmavine, when they came across the remains of a body buried in the peat. While the acidic conditions in the peat had ensured there was little left of the man other than some hair, fingernails and bone fragments, it kept his clothes and other items well-preserved.

His death was dated to around 1700 and the artefacts have provided many clues about the life of the unidentified man. However, over 50 years after his discovery, mystery still surrounds the Gunnister Man: Who was he? How did he die? Why was he buried in a peat bog?

The conference aims to explore these questions, illuminate the period in which he lived and provide evidence from similar burials elsewhere in Scotland. New information about the artefacts, which was discovered while carrying out research to create a full set of replicas for the exhibition, will also be presented.

The Gunnister Man artefacts are being displayed in the Museum and Archives from 12th September to 1st November as part of a partnership agreement between Shetland Amenity Trust and National Museums Scotland. Preparations are also underway for a further series of special events and activities based around the Gunnister Man; details of these will be released later.

A booking form for the conference is available from the Shetland Museum and Archives, tel. (01595) 695057 or e-mail: The closing date for bookings is 28th August however, as places are limited, early booking is essential.

Programme of events:

Friday 18th September 2009
7.00pm – Opening reception, hosted by Shetland Islands Council
7.45pm - Lecture by Professor T.C. Smout, Historiographer Royal in Scotland, The Economy and Society of Scotland and Northern Europe, 1680-1720

Saturday 19th September 2009
9.00am - Registration
9.30am - Introduction
9.40am – Ruby Brown, Shetland, The Discovery of the Gunnister Man’s Grave
10.00am – Carol Christiansen, Shetland Museum and Archives, The Grave Finds
10.25am - Coffee
10.50am – Trevor Cowie, National Museums Scotland, Dead Interesting: Bog Bodies from Scotland
11.40pm – Ewen Balfour, Shetland, Another Burial in Gunnister?
12.00pm – Discussion of morning session
12.15 – Lunch
1:45pm - Hance Smith, University of Cardiff, on the economy of 18th century Shetland
2.30pm - Alastair Dawson, University of Aberdeen, Weather and climate in Shetland during the late 17th century
3:15pm - Coffee
3.40pm – Carol Christiansen, Shetland Museum and Archives, Reconstructing the Textiles
4:05pm - Ian Tait, Shetland Museum and Archives, The Reconstructed Implements: better than the originals?
4.30pm – Discussion + Summary

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