Jul 11, 2012

Frankenstein Mummies of Scotland

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Not so much a horror story as an archaeological mystery, as mummified bodies cobbled together from disparate parts are turned up in Scotland.

An international team of archaeologists have discovered that two mummies found on an island off the coast of Scotland are, like Dr. Frankenstein's monster, composed of body parts from several different humans. The mummified remains, as much as 3,500 years old, suggest that the first residents of the island of South Uist in the Hebrides had some previously unsuspected burial practices.

. . .

The two primary skeletons were buried in a fetal position and showed evidence of having been preserved. Chemical evidence suggests they were mummified by being placed in nearby peat bogs for a year or longer. The high acidity and low oxygen content of the bog prevents bacteria from breaking down body tissues. After preservation, the skeletons were apparently removed from the bog and buried.

But the skeletons did not "look right" to the researchers. The female's jaw didn't fit into the rest of her skull, for example. Closer examination of the male, they reported in the Journal of Archaeological Science, showed that arthritis was present on the vertebrae of the neck, but not on the rest of the spine. The lower jaw had all of its teeth, while the upper jaw had none; but the condition of the lower jaw's teeth showed that they had been paired with upper teeth. The team concluded that the skeleton has been assembled from parts of at least three bodies, some of which were separated by several hundred years of time.

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