The Gunnister Man

Exhibition dates: 12/09/2009 - 01/11/2009

A model of what the Gunnister Man may have looked likeUsually on display in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, a partnership agreement between Shetland Amenity Trust and National Museums Scotland has enabled the return of the Gunnister Man finds, for the first time since found, for this major exhibition. 

On 12th May 1951, two Shetlanders were cutting peat near Gunnister, in the north mainland of Shetland, when they came across the remains of a body.  While the acidic conditions in the peat had ensured there was little left of the man, it preserved his clothes and other items incredibly well.

The style of the man’s clothing, and coins found in his purse, dated his death to around 1700.  Considering they were buried for around 250 years, the preservation of the artefacts is so good the stitches of the knitted items could be recorded, right down to minor flaws made by the original knitter.  The finds included one of the few complete outfits found in Britain belonging to an ‘ordinary’ person from this period, a purse featuring the earliest physical evidence of two colour patterned knitting in Shetland and two tablets of wood with a unique design.  This all contributed to the Gunnister find being one of the most significant discoveries of its type in Europe.

While these items provide clues, mystery still surrounds the Gunnister Man; Who was he? How did he die? Why was he buried in a bog?

The exhibition offers everyone an opportunity to see the evidence and create their own theories about the Gunnister mystery.  As well as the original artefacts, the exhibition will contain a full set of replicas to show how these objects looked when the man was alive.  The man will be put into context with an overview of what life was like in Shetland some 300 years ago and family visitors can expect a variety of exciting activities, including weaving using a table top loom and dressing up in Gunnister Man inspired clothes.

As part of the exhibition everyone will have the chance to add their own theories about the man’s life and death and the Museum and Archives will release the overall findings later in the year. 

A series of events planned to link in with the exhibition will provide further insight into this mystery. To view all of our events, please click here.

A Gunnister Man publication, including all the information gathered during the reconstruction, conference and exhibition, will be available next year.  If you would like to receive notification of the publication date please contact us.

For more information on the Gunnister Man please download a PDF of our leaflet here (5Mb).


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