Scientists have announced that two 3,000-year-old mummies discovered in a Scotland bog are actually composed of parts of six different people, although the purpose of the gruesome remains is likely lost in history.
National Geographic reports that the mummies were found more than ten years ago on the island of South Uist, off the coast of Scotland. They were buried below the remnants of 11th-century houses at Cladh Hallan, and had been buried in the fetal position between 300 and 600 years after death.
Yahoo News reports that it is unclear why the body parts were assembled in such a Frankenstein-like way, seeing as the merging of mummies seems more like something you’d see in some bad horror film. Terry Brown, lead researcher and University of Manchester professor believes that the answer could actually be quite simple.
Although somewhat morbid, he believes that the original body may just have been plugged with new parts as a convenience to replace missing pieces. Brown explained, “Maybe the head dropped off and they got another head to stick on.”
National Geographic notes that scientists discovered previously that the bodies were only placed in a peat bog long enough to preserve them, before they were removed. Their skeletons were not reburied until hundreds of years later.
Mike Parker Pearson, another researcher and University of Sheffield professor, has a different theory than Brown. Parker Pearson believes that the body parts could have been put together meticulously, in order to show the connected lineage between families over time. He explained:
“Rights to land would have depended on ancestral claims, so perhaps having the ancestors around ‘in the flesh’ was their prehistoric equivalent of a legal document. Merging different body parts of ancestors into a single person could represent the merging of different families and their lines of descent. Perhaps this was a prelude to building the row of houses in which numerous different families are likely to have lived.”
Brown told National Geographic that he expects to find more composite mummies buried beneath the ruins of Cladh Hallan.