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Ancient Mummies in Europe

The first mummies to be discovered in Britain have been found in the Outer Hebrides. Researchers believe islanders on South Uist started mummifying their dead at the same time as the ancient Egyptians.

Film-makers from BBC’s "Meet The Ancestors" program followed archaeologists from the University of Sheffield working at Cladh Hallan on South Uist.

The ancient remains found beneath the floor of a Bronze Age roundhouse are believed to have been a girl aged three, a teenage girl, and a middle-aged man and woman.

Analysis showed the 3,000-year-old-bodies had been preserved using naturally occurring acids and peat bogs. This is believed to be the first evidence of mummification ever discovered in the UK. Proof they were mummified comes from the fact that the bodies were gutted, and carbon dating has shown them to have died up to 600 years before burial.

Mike Parker-Pearson, an expert in ancient burial practices, said the find challenged the belief that mummification had been practiced only in Egypt and South America during this time. He said:

"We are talking about artificial preservation of the soft tissue after death. It is something that is deliberate. The flesh after a certain space of time will rot away from even a preserved body. We didn’t dig them up, then say ‘Ah, mummies!’, but we thought there was something strange. They were very tightly crunched up and had to have been bound for some time."

Source: BBC News, March 17, 2003


Source: The Revisionist 2(2) (2004), p. 216.


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