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It is one of Britain’s most intriguing archaeological finds. When two almost perfectly preserved 3000-year-old skeletons were dug up on a remote Scottish island they were the first evidence that ancient Britons preserved their dead using mummification.
The scientists who uncovered the skeletons also found clues that one of them, apparently a man buried in a crouching position, was not a single individual, but had been assembled from the body parts of different people.
The discovery began a 10-year investigation into what had led the Bronze Age islanders to this strange fate. Now, a study using the latest technology has found that the two skeletons together comprise the remains of at least six individuals who died several hundred years apart.
The researchers believe that large extended families may have shared their homes with the mummified remains of their ancestors, before deliberately putting the bodies together to look like single corpses – possibly in an attempt to demonstrate the uniting of different families.