Land Records and Bog Mummies
A pair of 3000-year old mummies discovered in Scotland more than a decade ago may be a primitive way of tracking land ownership.
Although the mummies were originally unearthed in 2001, subsequent research, including carbon dating and DNA analysis, revealed that the skeletons were actually “composites” (assembled from different people)
. In addition, it appears that they were assembled not merely from bones, but from entire preserved limbs. Adding to the mystery, at least one of the mummies was assembled from individuals who lived and died over a period of several hundred years, suggesting that the preserved composites were kept around for awhile before being buried.
According to a story in the Christian Science Monitor, one of the researchers studying the find, Mike Parker-Pearson, an archaeologist at the University of Sheffield, noted that the time frame for these mummies coincides with the rise in communal land ownership and fixed settlements in ancient Britain. He hypothesizes that "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," Parker-Pearson said. "Perhaps this was a prelude to building the row of houses in which numerous different families are likely to have lived.“
This is only one theory out of many possible explanations. For instance, it is possible that this was a pagan religious ritual having no connection with land ownership. There have been other mummies found in Great Britain, some with unusual characteristics. As a result of this “Frankenstein” determination, archaeologists using modern techniques will be able to determine whether this practice was widespread and whether it coincided with land ownership and settlement.