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Mummification Prevalent in Bronze Age Britain: Study

Based on microscopic bone analysis of British skeletons, researchers said Britons too mummified their dead during the Bronze Age and they practised exotic, novel and bizarre funerary rituals, said archaeologists at the University of Sheffield.

A skeleton found in Britain that was mummified in the Bronze Age

A skeleton found in Britain that was mummified in the Bronze Age (Credit: Geoff Morley)

Dr Tom Booth analysed skeletons at several Bronze Age burial sites across the UK and a collaborative team from the University of Sheffield found that the remains of some ancient Britons are consistent with a prehistoric mummy from northern Yemen and a partially mummified body recovered from a sphagnum peat bog in County Roscommon, Ireland.

Traceable to a previous study conducted at a single Bronze Age burial site in the Outer Hebrides, Dr Booth used microscopic analysis to compare the bacterial bioerosion of skeletons from various sites across the UK and compared them with the bones of the mummified bodies from Yemen and Ireland.

“Bones from bodies that have decomposed naturally are usually severely degraded by putrefactive bacteria, whereas mummified bones demonstrate immaculate levels of histological preservation and are not affected by putrefactive bioerosion,” he said.

The finding reiterates the fact that British and other European Bronze Age communities invested resources in mummifying and curating a proportion of their dead. And these were practised commonly for hundreds of years by the ancient civilizations, he explained.

“It’s possible that our method may allow us to identify further ancient civilisations that mummified their dead,” Dr Booth added.

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