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At the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh are a set of eight miniature coffins carved in wood and decorated with tinned iron. Each coffin contains a tiny wooden figure, with a painted face and dressed in clothes that had been stitched and glued around them. Since their discovery in a cave by a group of young lads one June afternoon in 1836, the miniature figurines have been a source of much fascination and mystery.

The boys had been out all day hunting for rabbits on the slopes of a rocky peak known as Arthur’s Seat, when their attention was drawn towards a small cave hidden behind a slab of slate. After pulling back the slab of stone, the boys found seventeen little coffins inside, each barely 4 inches long, arranged in three tiers—two rows of eight, and a solitary coffin at the top.

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