A GRISLY secret harboured in a Black Isle cave for more than a thousand years has finally been brought to light.
Archaeologists working at Rosemarkie have uncovered the remains of a man who was brutally murdered there more than 1400 years ago.
His skeleton was found buried in a recess of the cave, having been placed in an unusual cross-legged position with large stones holding down his legs and arms.
Analysis revealed that "Rosemarkie Man" died sometime between 430 and 630AD and met a pretty awful end.
Because of the remarkable state of preservation of his bones it was also possible to digitally reconstruct how he would have looked in life.
Professor Dame Sue Black, director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee said: "From studying his remains we learned a little about his short life but much more about his violent death.
"As you can see from the facial reconstruction he was a striking young man who was sadly cut down in his prime by brutal interpersonal conflict.
"We have identified at least four or five impacts that resulted in fracturing to his face and skull.
"The first impact was by a circular cross-section implement that broke his teeth on the right side. The second may have been the same implement used like a fighting stick, which broke his jaw on the left.
"The third resulted in fracturing to the back of his head as he fell from the blow to his jaw with a tremendous force, possibly onto a hard object, perhaps stone.
"The fourth was intended to end his life as probably the same weapon was driven through his skull from one side and out the other as he lay on the ground.
"The fifth was not in keeping with the injuries caused in the other four where a hole, larger than that caused by the previous weapon, was made in the top of the skull.
"Was this a coup de grace or was it done after death in some form of ritual in keeping with the stones buried on his body? We simply can’t tell."
Steven Birch, a local professional archaeologist and volunteer leader of the excavation carried out by North of Scotland Archaeological Society, was amazed to learn about the amount of trauma the man sustained.
"Here we have a man who has been brutally killed, but who has been laid to rest in the cave with some consideration - placed on his back, within a dark alcove, and weighed down by beach stones," he said.
"The style of the death, which included considerable ‘overkill’ is reminiscent of the Iron Age bog bodies, examples of which had been pinned down in watery pools using wooden stakes and hurdles.
"While we don’t know why the man was killed, the placement of his remains gives us insight into the culture of those who buried him.
Simon Gunn is the founder of the Rosemarkie Caves Project and said: "I remember all the excitement when the remains of Richard III were found under a carpark. Well, Rosemarkie Man died 900 years before that so you cannot imagine our reaction when we first uncovered these human remains and then learned about his brutal death."
Ongoing specialist analysis on the skeleton and artefacts from the cave is expected to provide more details of Rosemarkie Man’s place of origin and significance as well as more information about the cave’s archaeological and historical importance.