18th-Century Scottish ‘Ghost’ Given Face for New Edinburgh Exhibit

Woman's remains found buried opposite city's Royal Infirmary in '90s.

May 25, 2017 5:00 am

A 200-year-old Scottish woman is finally being given the respect she deserved—after being a two-time victim.

According to The Scotsman, the 18th-century woman’s remains were discovered in 1993 across the street from Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, where she had been buried with other “unclaimed dead.” At the time of her death, her family would’ve been too poor to afford a proper burial for her, hence her basic resting place.

18th-Century Scottish Woman Facial Reconstruction
(Courtesy of Josie Ide)

Now, as part of a new exhibition in the city, the unknown woman, whose remains were first discovered in 1993, has been given a face by freelance facial reconstructionist Josie Ide, who tells RealClearLife she did the project as part of a master’s internship at the Edinburgh Museum.

The still-unknown woman had also been twice the victim, as her teeth had been harvested by hospital employees to make side money—a widespread practice of the era. As The Scotsman notes, “It is thought cash-strapped porters, nurses and washerwomen may have been involved in the illegal practice to capitalize on the growing market at the time for ‘real’ false teeth.”

Edinburgh’s city archaeologist John Lawson had this to say of the woman:

“This woman’s teeth were almost certainly removed post-autopsy, most likely by one of the hospital porters. Help was possibly provided by one of the nurses or washerwomen charged with preparing the deceased for burial. These staff were poorly paid and corruption was commonplace. Such teeth, therefore, made a tempting and significant addition to a wage packet.”

For more on the woman and the complementary exhibit, read about it on Edinburgh’s city website.

—additional reporting by RealClearLife‘s Will Levith

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