The wooden coffin of a mummified cat [left] and a CT scan revealing the ancient cat skeleton inside.

70 Million Mummified Animals in Egypt Reveal Dark Secret of Ancient Mummy Industry

(Read the article on one page)

In what is described as Egypt’s “dark secret,” a staggering 70 million mummified animals have been found in underground catacombs across Egypt, including cats, birds, rodents, and even crocodiles. But surprises awaited a research team when they scanned the animal-shaped mummies and found many of them empty!

A team of radiographers and Egyptologists from University of Manchester have used the latest medical imaging technology to scan hundreds of elaborately-prepared animal mummies which were collected from over thirty sites across Egypt during the 19 th and 20 th centuries, reports BBC News .

The biggest survey of its kind in history will feature in a BBC program by Horizon entitled “70 Million Animal Mummies: Egypt's Dark Secret”, set to air this week (Monday 11 May). The documentary will examine the practices of animal mummification in ancient Egypt, and how so many creatures ended up bound and buried in catacombs.

The University of Manchester program used CT scans and X-rays to look into 800 mummies, dating between 1000 B.C. and 400 A.D.

Various animal mummies from ancient Egypt.

Various animal mummies from ancient Egypt. Credit: University of Manchester.

The program will investigate the huge animal mummification industry of ancient Egypt, and why many of the carefully prepared, elaborately wrapped mummies were found to have no bodies inside.

In a press release by the University of Manchester, research leader Dr Lidija Mcknight said, "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.”

Many gods in animal form were worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. The mummified animals were considered sacred gifts and were used as offerings. Because this was such a popular religious practice, and demand was so high, some animals are thought to have suffered near or total extinction locally.

Animals and animal parts were preserved and wrapped to use as offerings in ancient Egypt.

Animals and animal parts were preserved and wrapped to use as offerings in ancient Egypt. Wikimedia Commons

McKnight told The Washington Post , “You’d get one of these mummies and you’d ask it to take a message on your behalf to the gods and then wait for the gods to do something in return. That’s kind of their place in the religious belief system of ancient Egypt, and that’s why we think there were so many of them. It was almost sort of an industry that sprang up at the time and continued for more than a 1,000 years.”

Various animal mummies were examined during the study, including wading birds, cats, falcons and shrews, and a five foot long crocodile. Scans revealed that the mummified crocodile contained eight baby crocodiles which had been carefully prepared and bound together, and wrapped with the mother in one big crocodile-shaped mummy.

Mummified crocodile.

Mummified crocodile. Credit: University of Manchester

One cat-shaped mummy held only a few pieces of cat bone, and some artifacts contained no animal parts whatsoever, but instead held fillers like mud, sticks, reeds and egg shells, writes news site HNGN. The filler items were considered special as they had a connection to the animals and are thought to have served as symbolic remains.

Egyptian animal mummies in the British Museum.

Egyptian animal mummies in the British Museum. Wikimedia Commons

One of the catacombs contained around two million mummified ibis birds alone, and a network of tombs housed up to eight million mummified dogs.

These incredible numbers and the surprising way in which the bodies were preserved suggest that the animal mummification industry of ancient Egypt was huge.

The BBC reports, “some experts suggest animal mummies were being made to be sold to Egyptian pilgrims and so the ancient embalmers could make more profit by selling ‘fake’ mummies, others like Lidija believe its evidence the ancient embalmers considered even the smallest parts of the animals to be sacred [and] went to just as much efforts to mummify them correctly.”

The temple complex in Saqqara holds millions of animal mummies to this day, yet to be excavated and catalogued by experts. Molecular biologist Sally Wasef from Griffith University, Australia has collected samples of bones from these mummies in order to analyze their DNA and determine if they had been ‘farmed’ or intensely bred. It is thought that millions of animals were required for such a massive industry, described as a “national obsession.”

Comments

rbflooringinstall's picture

I think its gotta be something a little deeper than just a sacrafice to the Gods. Maybe something happened that killed a good bit of these animals all at once and the people prepared them for the afterlife out of respect.

 

Peace and Love,

Ricky.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

Edgar Cayce (Credit: Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment, Author provided)
For nearly 30 years I have returned to the famous “Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce’s readings as a road map to try and piece together the complex origins of civilization and the creation of Homo sapiens. Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) was an American Christian mystic born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky who answered questions on subjects as varied as healing, reincarnation, wars, Atlantis, and future events while in a trance state.

Human Origins

Edgar Cayce (Credit: Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment, Author provided)
For nearly 30 years I have returned to the famous “Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce’s readings as a road map to try and piece together the complex origins of civilization and the creation of Homo sapiens. Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) was an American Christian mystic born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky who answered questions on subjects as varied as healing, reincarnation, wars, Atlantis, and future events while in a trance state.

Ancient Technology

Detail of a star chart dating to the Middle Kingdom.
The calendar is one of mankind’s most important inventions. Calendars allowed societies to organize time for religious, social, economic, and administrative purposes. The calendar, or rather, two sets of calendars, were invented by the ancient Egyptians. One of these was a lunar calendar, which was used mainly for the organization of religious festivals.

Ancient Places

Healing Temple of Aesculapius (Asklepios) by Robert Thom
In the ancient world, many cultures built elaborate temple complexes dedicated to their healer gods - Imhotep in Egypt and Asklepios in Greece for example. These gods were recognized as having the power to cure supplicants from a variety of ailments within sleep and sacred dreams. Those who desired healing might travel many hundreds of miles to reach such a temple

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article