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Last Updated:  Monday, 17 March, 2003, 17:46 GMT
Mummies found in Outer Hebrides
One of the bodies found on Uist
The remains were found on South Uist
The first mummies to be discovered in Britain have been found in the Outer Hebrides.

Researchers believe islanders on South Uist started mummifying their dead at the same time as the ancient Egyptians.

The discovery is revealed in a BBC documentary to be screened on Tuesday at 2100 GMT.

Film-makers from the Meet The Ancestors programme followed archaeologists from the University of Sheffield working at Cladh Hallan on South Uist.

Carbon dating

The ancient remains found beneath the floor of a Bronze Age roundhouse are believed to have been a girl aged three, a teenage girl, and a middle-aged man and woman.

Analysis showed the 3,000-year-old-bodies had been preserved using naturally occurring acids and peat bogs.

This is believed to be the first evidence of mummification ever discovered in the UK.

Proof they were mummified comes from the fact that the bodies were gutted and carbon dating has shown them to have died up to 600 years before burial.

The bodies were found on the site of a Bronze Age roundhouse
The bodies were found on the site of a Bronze Age roundhouse
Mike Parker-Pearson, an expert in ancient burial practices, said the find challenged the belief that mummification had been practised only in Egypt and South America during this time.

He said: "We are talking about artificial preservation of the soft tissue after death. It is something that is deliberate.

"The flesh after a certain space of time will rot away from even a preserved body.

"We didn't dig them up, then say 'Ah, mummies!', but we thought there was something strange. They were very tightly crunched up and had to have been bound for some time."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Nina McLeod reports
"The 3,000-year-old remains were found under the floor of the settlement."



SEE ALSO:
Digging among city ruins
20 Feb 03 |  Scotland
Hunt for ancient fort begins
10 Dec 01 |  Scotland


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