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Evidence for mummification in Bronze Age Britain

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Oliver Craig


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Ancient Egyptians are thought to have been the only people in the Old World 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 of mummification 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 14 C 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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pearson MP, Chamberlain A, Craig O, Marshall P, Mulville J, Smith H, Chenery C, Collins M, Cook G, Craig G, Evans J, Hiller J, Montgomery J, Schwenninger J-L, Taylor G, Wess T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Antiquity

Year: 2005

Volume: 79

Issue: 305

Pages: 529-546

ISSN (print): 0003-598X

ISSN (electronic): 1745-1744

Publisher: Antiquity Publications Ltd.