Archaeologists have revealed some new details about Ava - a brown-eyed woman who died more than 4,250 years ago in Scotland.
Ava's remains, which included teeth and a skull, were discovered in 1987 from a grave at Achavanich in Caithness. She was buried in a rock-cut grave, rather than one dug into soil. Archaeologists found a small number of items in her grave, including a type of pottery called Beaker.
New analysis of Ava's genomic data has revealed that she was a dark haired lady and the daughter of immigrants from northern Europe, who arrived in Britain a few generations before Ava was born. She had olive-coloured skin and likely suffered from lactose intolerance.
"Archaeologists rarely recover evidence that indicates hair, eye or skin colour, but these new revolutionary techniques allow us to see prehistoric people like we never have before," said Maya Hoole, lead researcher of the study, as cited by BBC.
"The revelation that her ancestors were recent northern European migrants is exciting, especially as we know that she has no, or very few, genetic connections with the local Neolithic population who resided in Caithness before her."
The analysis also revealed that Ava was aged between 18 and 25 when she died. She was a healthy woman and was likely involved in physical labour. Researchers have no idea why she died at such a young age, but it is certain that she was well respected in her community. The team arrived at this conclusion after analysing her grave, which took extra efforts from the local people to create.
Ava's community lived in an area forested with pine, hazel, birch, and alder trees. These people farmed cattle and consumed a diet rich in meat. They were likely highly skilled in making tools and various other types of objects.
Hew Morrison, a forensic artist and a graduate of the University of Dundee, reconstructed Ava's face by using a two-dimensional approach for facial reconstruction. As Ava's skull is very old and delicate, this presented a challenge.
Morrison took photographs and measurements of Ava's skull and teeth, and then used a database of modern European tissue depths to reconstruct her head and facial features.
"When I received the results of the DNA testing...which showed that Ava had straight dark hair, brown eyes and a less-fair complexion, I was presented with the opportunity to revise the first facial reconstruction," said Mr. Morrison.
The findings of the study are published in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
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