Saturday, September 26, 2009

Animal mummies

Researchers may have uncovered a 5th reason that ancient Egyptians mummified and entombed animals. Until now, animal mummies have fallen into 4 categories:
Beloved pets, like the monkey pictured above, were carefully prepared after a natural death by their grieving owners and later entombed with them. It is also possible that some pets were sacrificed when their owners died so they could be buried with them. Cats (mentioned in a previous post) and dogs were assumed to be mummified pets when entombed with their owners, but when buried separately were likely symbols of the gods Bastet and Anubis.
Sacred animals, like the birds in the middle image, were worshipped in animal cults as incarnations of deities and carefully mummified after death. The falcons in the photo represented Horus and the ibis represented Thoth. The most cumbersome sacred animal to mummify was the Apis bull, an incarnation of Ptah, creator of the universe.
Votive offerings, like the fish in the top image, were purchased by pilgrims to the various animal cult centers and placed in catacombs as gifts to the particular gods. The fish were most often Nile perch, of a species that no longer exists. Ibis, sacred to Thoth (see above), filled two catacombs as votive offerings - one in Tuna el-Gebel and the other in Abydos.
Food for the dead, often consisting of butchered meat but sometimes entire fowl, were placed in tombs so that the deceased would be well-fed in the afterlife. The animals were preserved, wrapped in linen, and placed in "coffinets" made of sycamore wood.
In 2001, the unique discovery of a lion in the tomb of Maia, King Tutankhamun's wet-nurse, did not seem to fit into any of these categories. The male lion was found, along with some cat mummies, in an area of the tomb sacred to the female cat deity Bastet, and may have been considered an incarnation of the son of the related lion goddess Sekhmet. The remains were thought to have been mummified, but no linen wrappings were discovered. It was evident from the skeleton and teeth that the lion had reached a great age and had been kept in captivity, but it had been placed in the tomb long after Maia's death. "Maybe this lion's importance is as a family pet rather than as a representative of a god. The context doesn't seem to fit," says anthropologist Robert Pickering.
Earlier this month, it was reported in National Geographic that the site director of Hierakonpolis, Egypt's oldest city, has found evidence that a number of large animals buried at the edge of a cemetery belonged to the city ruler's menagerie. A 3,500-year-old baboon and fellow creatures are the earliest evidence of a practice that later spread through the country. So category 5 appears to be zoo animals!

1 comment:

  1. is interesthing the mummies pets but a question.
    How make the perfec mummy?


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