LONDON (TIP): Ancient Britons may have mummified their dead during the Bronze Age, claims a study that is the first to show that mummification may have been a common funerary practise in the UK.
Building on a previous study conducted at a single Bronze Age burial site in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, Tom Booth from University of Sheffield used microscopic analysis to compare the bacterial bioerosion of skeletons from various sites across the UK with the bones of the mummified bodies from Yemen and Ireland.
The damp British climate is not favourable to organic materials and all prehistoric mummified bodies in UK will have lost their preserved tissue if buried outside of a preservative environment, researchers said. “We know that bones from bodies that have decomposed naturally are usually severely degraded by putrefactive bacteria, whereas mummified bones demonstrate immaculate levels of histological preservation,” said Booth. “The idea that European Bronze Age communities mummified and curated a proportion of their dead fundamentally alters our perceptions of funerary ritual and belief in this period,” Booth said.