July 11, 2012
Scottish "Frankenstein" Mummies and Land Rights
I probably should save this one for Halloween, but there's breaking news out of Scotland, where archaeologists have discovered a pair of 3,000-year-old mummified bodies . . . but it appears that there are more than two persons involved. From Yahoo News, 3,000-year-old ‘Frankenstein’ mummies discovered in Scotland:
Researchers say that a pair of 3,000-year-old mummified corpses that were recently discovered in Scotland are actually composed of body parts originating from six different people. . . .
National Geographic reports that isotopic dating and DNA experiments revealed the unusual pairing of body parts. The tests also revealed that the body parts were assembled and buried together more than 600 years after death, meaning that the assemblage was almost certainly deliberate.
Why would they spend centuries assembling these composite cadavers? It's not clear, but one of the researchers has a theory in land use law:
Meanwhile, fellow researcher and University of Sheffield professor Mike Parker Pearson tells LiveScience the parts could have been more specifically put together to show the connected lineage between families other time.
"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," Parker Pearson said.
"Merging different body parts of ancestors into a single person could represent the merging of different families and their lines of descent," Parker Pearson said. "Perhaps this was a prelude to building the row of houses in which numerous different families are likely to have lived."
A little morbid, a little amusing, and also a reminder that issues of land ownership aren't just historical, they might be prehistorical as well. Thanks to William Bozeman for the pointer.
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