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Sunday, February 5, 2023

13 of the Coolest (and Creepiest!) Egyptian Animal Mummies

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Ancient Egypt is well-known for its practice of mummification, but few realize the monumental scale in which they also mummified animals. A staggering 70 million mummified cats, dogs, birds, rodents, primates, sheep, fish, and even crocodiles, have been found in underground catacombs across Egypt.

The astounding numbers of preserved animal remains – many carefully treated and wrapped in linen like their human counterparts – not only signify a cultural and religious phenomenon, but also speak to the mammoth industry that operated to maintain a source of constant tributes to the gods.

The ancient Egyptians believed the sacred animals were the avatars or manifestations of their look-alike gods—canines, for example, were seen as the embodiment of the god Anubis . The dogs were thus thought to have been votive offerings to the jackal-headed deity.

Archaeologists have found innumerable unidentified bundles wrapped in linen. Through modern technology, such as computerized tomography (CT) scans, scientists are able to digitally peer beneath the wrappings to identify the animals that lie within. Here we feature some of the amazing animal mummies that have been recovered from Egypt’s subterranean crypts.

Crocodiles

A large, mummified crocodile with over 20 mummified infant crocodiles mounted on reeds adhering to its back; whole coated with a black resin. Traces of linen wrappings remain on the bodies.  The crocodile measures 3.8m (12.4 feet) in length. It was excavated from Kom Ombo in Aswan, Egypt (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

A large, mummified crocodile with over 20 mummified infant crocodiles mounted on reeds adhering to its back; whole coated with a black resin. Traces of linen wrappings remain on the bodies.  The crocodile measures 3.8m (12.4 feet) in length. It was excavated from Kom Ombo in Aswan, Egypt ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

A mummified crocodile enclosed in woven palm leaf and linen. Excavated from El Hiba, Egypt  (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

A mummified crocodile enclosed in woven palm leaf and linen. Excavated from El  Hiba, Egypt  ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Baboons

Mummy of a young baboon in a sitting position, wrapped in linen bandages. The bandages are missing in several places and reveal the fur beneath. The surviving bandages are encrusted with a soil-like deposit. Found at the Temple of Khons, Karnak, Egypt. (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummy of a young baboon in a sitting position, wrapped in linen bandages. The bandages are missing in several places and reveal the fur beneath. The surviving bandages are encrusted with a soil-like deposit. Found at the Temple of Khons, Karnak, Egypt. ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummified baboon still completely encased in linen wrappings. (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummified baboon still completely encased in linen wrappings. ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Ram

Mummy of a ram, probably made up of bones and packing. The horns are exposed. It is wrapped in linen and details, such as eyes, are painted. Found in Thebes, Egypt (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummy of a ram, probably made up of bones and packing. The horns are exposed. It is wrapped in linen and details, such as eyes, are painted. Found in Thebes, Egypt ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Birds

A mummified falcon in linen wrappings with a bronze headpiece (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

A mummified falcon in linen wrappings with a bronze headpiece ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummified ibis in linen wrappings with herring-bone pattern. It has an appliqué representation of Nefertum enthroned on the front. Found in Saqqara, Egypt. (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummified ibis in linen wrappings with herring-bone pattern. It has an appliqué representation of Nefertum enthroned on the front. Found in Saqqara, Egypt. ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummy of a hawk with naturistically modelled head, with painted details, wrapped in narrow bandages of fine linen, arranged in a herring-bone pattern. Roman period, Egypt. Found in Saqqara. (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummy of a hawk with naturistically modelled head, with painted details, wrapped in narrow bandages of fine linen, arranged in a herring-bone pattern. Roman period, Egypt. Found in Saqqara. ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Dogs

Mummy of a dog with naturistically modelled head, face covered with dark-brown linen, one eye applied. The body is wrapped in linen and the front panel is elaborated with concentric squares of interwoven light and dark brown narrow linen bandages. Found in Thebes, Egypt. (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummy of a dog with naturistically modelled head, face covered with dark-brown linen, one eye applied. The body is wrapped in linen and the front panel is elaborated with concentric squares of interwoven light and dark brown narrow linen bandages. Found in Thebes, Egypt. ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummified jackal in linen wrappings. Found in Thebes, Egypt. (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummified jackal in linen wrappings. Found in Thebes, Egypt. ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Cats

Mummy of a cat, with modelled and painted head, wrapped in linen bandages. Roman period, Egypt. (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummy of a cat, with modelled and painted head, wrapped in linen bandages. Roman period, Egypt. ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummy of a cat with naturalistically modelled head with ears, applied eyes and painted details, the body is covered with light and dark brown narrow linen bandages woven into a herring-bone pattern. Roman period, Egypt. (Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Mummy of a cat with naturalistically modelled head with ears, applied eyes and painted details, the body is covered with light and dark brown narrow linen bandages woven into a herring-bone pattern. Roman period, Egypt. ( Trustees of the British Museum / CC by SA 4.0)

Fish

Mummified Fish, 664–30 BC, Egypt (Metropolitan Museum of Art / Public Domain)

Mummified Fish, 664–30 BC, Egypt ( Metropolitan Museum of Art / Public Domain)

Top image: Egyptian mummified cat. Source: Andrea Izzotti / Adobe Stock

By Joanna Gillan

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