For some reason BBC depicted him with a shaved head. I was wondering if it is historically accurate for a 700 year old English nobleman to have a shaved head?

  • @justCal , this is true but I was just wondering if it was historically accurate since the lady buried next to him was given a standard haircut for the era. – Tobias Rieper Apr 23 at 3:37
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    I don't see any other depictions at the article you linked. – justCal Apr 23 at 3:43
  • Certainly none of the people here seem to have shaven heads, but it's possible specific groups or orders of knights might have unique hairstyles en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1300%E2%80%931400_in_European_fashion – Stuart F Apr 23 at 9:38
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    Shaved heads were common at various points as a technique for managing lice. On the other hand, the image at the top of that article may simply be a reconstruction where the artist chose not to depict hair because they had insufficient information. I agree with justcal that I don't see any images of the lady buried next to him. Can you cite that image? – MCW Apr 23 at 10:47

The reconstruction you mention was a scientific process to determine what information could be gathered from some skeletal remain found at the chapel of Stirling Castle. Since skeletons can't provide information about hair, a scientific reconstruction would not address hair styles.

The reconstruction of the male figure, and historical investigation into the circumstances of his death, comes from a British documentary television series History Cold Case - Stirling Man. You can see a copy on YouTube here.

In this video you can see at 36:38 the section where they begin discussing the facial reconstruction process:

enter image description here

A later stage they have 'fleshed out' the model, and get a generic form which shows the shape of the head after the muscles and skin have been added in [38:19]: enter image description here

This is the physical structure that the science indicates.

The final presentation is around 55:40, and the disclaimer acknowledges the things they are 'estimating':

...obviously we don't know details of skin color, and eye color, and hair color but we've estimated as a best guess based on the period of time...

So no claim to ' historical accuracy' of the (lack of) hairstyle has been made. The final result 56:18 looks like this:

enter image description here

The female figure you mentioned in comments was not reconstructed during this documentary. I can find not information on this female figure other than an entry on a blog style site, Medievalists.net.
enter image description here

You can see the image of the female figure appears a completely different style, perhaps a sculpture. It would appear that the female figure was done at a different time, by a different process and artist. Without information on that items creation, its useless to try and compare 'historical accuracy' from one item to the next. (I suspect the female bust is an artists creation, and not the result of forensic science.)

(the Medievalists.net site does credit the image to Historic Scotland, which is the agency overseeing the renovations at Stirling Castle, so perhaps when the exhibitions are fully open, more information on the source of the female reconstruction will be forthcoming.)

So, the image generated of the Stirling Man, was a forensic computer recreation using scientific procedures to represent what could be concluded from the information at hand. The 'shaved head' isn't representing a deliberate style source, but shows the desire not to add unsubstantiated information that can't be supported.

  • "The 'shaved head' shows the desire not to add unsubstantiated information that can't be supported". I'd argue that in the early 21st century a stubbly head adds unsubstantiated information as much as a blond mullet or pigtails would do, as it is such a common contemporary look ;-) I appreciate the creator may have wished to be neutral, however, and the final physical model did not include the stubble but only 'five o'clock shadow'. – fred2 Apr 25 at 19:52

I think the reconstruction says more about modern tastes than medieval ones. We obviously have no direct evidence for the knight concerned, and judging from the article, it 'may be' an English knight known to have died around the right time. 'May be' tends to suggest hope rather than anything close to reliable evidence.

You really have to look at portrayals of English aristrocrats from the 14th century. In my experience, shaven heads are very uncommon, and if anything relatively long hair was far more 'normal'. You get the Henry V 'bowl cut' in the 15th century (but that may be based on 16th century artistic tastes, not Henry's, although there is a near contemporary image of him with bowlish, but blond, hair). There are a bunch of images from around the right time of aristocratic figures which are typical of portrays of hair in the 14th century. Monks had tonsures, but knights and kings had what we'd consider 'normal' length or long hair. Given the number of images of kings with long hair on coins, one could surmise that long hair may have been associated with status, and short hair did not.

With facial reconstructions, I think there is often a temptation to 'humanize' the subject by giving them a look that makes sense to modern eyes, or reflects a point the reconstructor (or the person paying their wages) wants to make - hence the designer stubble instead of a bald 'we don't know' look, or a weird medieval wig. They've done the same in recent years with Robert Bruce, who has had a bunch of facial reconstructions, all of which one might suggest ended up looking how the current historical trends wanted him to look ... either noble and visionary, disfigured with a case of advanced leprosy, or a haggard tough guy.

Sprucing up Robert the Bruce

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