A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Surprising evidence that ancient Britons also preserved their dead
At first, nothing appeared to be unusual about two human skeletons excavated on Scotland's Outer Hebrides until tests showed the individuals had died up to 500 years before they were buried. Forensic analysis now indicates they were mummified by being placed in a peat bog. The bodies, found at the site of a 3,000-year-old house at Cladh Hallan on South Uist Island, provide the first evidence that prehistoric Europeans mummified their dead.
"This is likely to redefine key aspects of life and death in prehistoric society," says excavation director Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University. "It suggests that ancestors were even more central to ancient belief systems than we had previously thought."
David Keys is an archaeology correspondent for the London newspaper The Independent and is the author of Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World (Random House, 2000). For more information on the Cladh Hallan site, visit www.shef.ac.uk/uni/academic/A-C/ap/research/hallan.html.