Evidence for mummification in Bronze Age Britain

Mike Parker Pearson, Andrew Chamberlain, Oliver Craig, Peter Marshall, Jacqui Mulville, Helen Smith, Carolyn Chenery, Matthew Collins, Gordon Cook, Geoffrey Craig, Jane Evans, Jennifer Hiller, Janet Montgomery, Jean-Luc Schwenninger, Gillian Taylor, Timothy Wess

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Abstract

Ancient Egyptians are thought to have been the only people in the OldWorld who were practising mummification in the Bronze Age (c. 2200-700 BC). But now a remarkable series of finds from a remote Scottish island indicates that Ancient Britons were performing similar, if less elaborate, practices of bodily preservation. Evidence ofmummification is usually limited to a narrow range of arid or frozen environments which are conducive to soft tissue preservation. Mike Parker Pearson and his team show that a combination of microstructural, contextual and AMS 14C analysis of bone allows the identification of mummification in more temperate and wetter climates where soft tissues and fabrics do not normally survive. Skeletons from Cladh Hallan on South Uist, Western Isles, Scotland were buried several hundred years after death, and the skeletons provide evidence of post mortem manipulation of body parts. Perhaps these practices were widespread in mainland Britain during the Bronze Age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-546
JournalAntiquity
Volume79
Issue number305
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2005

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