Not only did Egypt mummify humans, but tons of animals were also mummified. Animal mummification was a huge part of ancient Egyptian religious culture. There were a few reasons why people and pets were mummified. One being that Egyptians wanted their beloved pets to be able to cross over with them into the afterlife. Other reasons included that the animals were used to make offerings to a specific god or that the pets were physical manifestations of some of the gods that Egyptians worshipped. People are now finding out that not all the animals that were mummified were actually animals. Egyptian researchers found that out of what was thought to be animal mummification may not even contain any animal remains.
Researchers Find a Surprise with No Animals Remains
Animals were extremely sacred within Egypt and people believed some of the animals were the living embodiment of particular gods. The preservation of these animals’ bodies through animal mummification became important, as if they were preserving bodies of the gods. Egyptian embalmers, the folk that were in charge of preserving bodies went to great lengths and it took a lot of time to mummify them. As most people know, cats were of a very high status in Egypt, but there have been mummified dogs, cows, fish and other types of animals.
Ancient Egypt was one of the few cultures who respected animals so very highly. Half of the Egyptian hieroglyphics are related to animals in some way. Animals were a crucial part of physical, as well as spiritual survival. How well a person treated animals while they were on Earth and among the living was considered a direct line to how well their afterlife would be. Once someone died, it was believed that the gods would ask a series of questions including how well they treated animals. Since many of the animals were thought to be some sort of god, Egyptians treated them with honor, hence the mummification.
It turns out that these animal mummifications fooled a lot of people, until now. This past summer, a team of excavators, including Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner from the University of Toronto, who led the team, came across a religious building called the Terrace of the Great God, an ancient holy place within Egypt. It was first thought to be a storage area. Inscriptions found at the building actually refer to Set I, a Pharaoh that ruled more than three thousand years ago. They determined that the temple was built for this Pharaoh.
Large Number of Animal Mummies Found
In one of the chambers of this newly discovered building, more than eighty animal mummies were found. They were packed tightly together when the team discovered them in one of the chambers. They are dated further back than two thousand years. The team found mostly dogs, but there were also cats, sheep and goats. These animal mummifications were probably placed there to please the gods. A scanning project of these mummies revealed that there are actually no animal remains in many of them. Instead, there’s only cloth, mud, sticks and sometimes a few bones. The scanning project consisted of taking these mummies and running them through x-rays and CT scans. The testing took place at Manchester University.
Scientists have known that not all mummies contained what was expected based on the outside. They anticipated they might come across a few animal mummification fakes, but researchers were surprised by the high number that contained no animal parts at all.