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One mummy but three people

Nature volume 486, page 297 (21 June 2012) | Download Citation


A mummy found at a site off the coast of Scotland consists of remains from at least three individuals.


Human skeletons dating from 1400–1100 BC were previously unearthed at the Cladh Hallan settlement. A male skeleton was identified as a composite of multiple individuals on the basis of isotope data, but the status of a female mummy (pictured) was less certain. Terry Brown at the University of Manchester, UK, and his colleagues extracted DNA from bones of the jaw, right arm and right leg of the female remains. After excluding possible contamination, the researchers found that all three body parts came from different individuals. DNA analysis of the skull was inconclusive.

The team suggests that the remains at Cladh Hallan were deliberately merged, perhaps to symbolically combine different ancestries into one lineage.

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