Mummies in Ancient Britain
Like the ancient Egyptians, Bronze Age Britons practiced their own form of mummification. And it may have been a wide-spread funerary practice, according to new research from the Univ. of Sheffield, Univ. of Manchester and Univ. College London.
“We know from previous research 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,” said Dr. Thomas Booth, of the Natural History Museum, London.
“To help address this, our team has found…microscopic bone analysis can determine whether a skeleton has been previously mummified, even when it is buried in an environment that isn’t favorable to mummified remains,” Booth said.
The findings were published in Antiquity.
According to Live Science, microscopic analysis was used on bones from 301 people, retrieved from 25 European archaeological sites. Thirty-four individuals were from the Bronze Age.
The researchers compared the ancient Briton remains with a prehistoric mummy from northern Yemen and a partially mummified body recovered from a sphagnum peat bog in Ireland.
Sixteen specimens showed bone conditions consistent with the Yemeni and Irish mummies.
Since damp British conditions aren’t ideal for mummy preservation, like arid Egypt, the suspected mummies appear more like skeletons.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, the cool, oxygen-poor conditions of bogs make them ideal for body embalmment.
“Our research shows that smoking over a fire and purposeful burial within a peat bog are among some of the techniques ancient Britons may have used to mummify their dead,” said Booth.
“Other techniques could have include evisceration, in which organs were removed shortly after death.”
Booth, in the Los Angeles Times, said Bronze Age mummies in Britain were kept above ground and had an active role in living society. However, the motivations for mummification are still elusive.
Source: R & D