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.
Archaeologists from the University of Sheffield were working at
Cladh Hallan on South Uist.
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 bodies, from 1000 BC, 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.
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."