A Third of Egyptian Animal Mummy Cases Are Empty

Ancient Egyptians used to mummify crocodiles, cats and birds, among others - but only a third of the shrouds had well-preserved remains inside, BBC reports.

new-hdc-logo
Haaretz
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Egypt, pyramids
Egypt, pyramidsCredit: AP
new-hdc-logo
Haaretz

About a third of supposedly mummified animals turned out to be empty, a scanning project at Manchester Museum and the University of Manchester discovered, according to a report by the BBC.

Researchers examined over 800 animal mummies, including birds, cats and crocodiles, using X-rays and CT scans, the BBC reported on Monday. While a third contained remarkably well preserved and complete skeletons, another third had partial remains.

"We always knew that not all animal mummies contained what we expected them to contain, but we found around a third don't contain any animal material at all - so no skeletal remains," said Dr Lidija McKnight, an Egyptologist from the University of Manchester, about the biggest surprise of the project, which is being followed by the BBC's Horizon program.

Instead, embalmers probably used organic material like mud, sticks, and feathers or other body parts, she said.

According to Dr. Campbell Price, who is curating Manchester Museum's fall exhibition on animal mummies, they also used materials associated with the animals used during their lifetime, such as eggshells or nest material.

Scientists estimate that some 70 million animals were mummified, and suggest that the embalmers could not keep up with the high demand. Ancient Egyptians highly regarded animal mummies as religious offerings.

"The scale of animal mummification between about 800 BC and into the Roman period was huge," said Dr. Campbell Price, curator of Egypt and Sudan, at Manchester Museum, which will have an exhibition on animal mummies in October.

However, Dr. Price does not think that ancient Egyptians buying the boneless mummies were hoodwinked.

The animal pieces "were special because they had been in close proximity with the animals - even though they weren't the animals themselves," he explained. "So we don't think it's forgery or fakery. It's just that they were using everything they could find. And often the most beautifully wrapped mummies don't contain the animal remains themselves."

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Palestinians search through the rubble of a building in which Khaled Mansour, a top Islamic Jihad militant was killed following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, on Sunday.

Gazans Are Tired of Pointless Wars and Destruction, and Hamas Listens to Them

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage