Mysterious Mummified Predator Baffles Experts
Some people may not be aware, but animals have been mummified throughout history in various places, including Turkey in the Middle Ages. Niğde, Turkey is a site were researchers have recently found mummified remains of an apparent carnivore - that has defied classification so far.
“We are examining pictures of the skeleton and it seems to be a carnivore,” Aydin Topcu, Natural History professor at Niğde University, told the Daily Mail. “But we need more time to conduct further tests. After the examinations we will be able to tell what species it belongs to and of which period of time it is.”
The Daily Mail wrote in its article that it had sent photos of the find to the Zoological Society of London, the Horniman Museum, the Natural History Museum and the British Museum, the last of which refused to comment on the photos. The news agent says the creature could be a hoax, but it resembles a cat. Some experts told them it could be a prehistoric animal.
— Dane O'Leary (@DaneOLeary_) February 8, 2016
There is a history of cats and children being mummified in Anatolia from the 10th to the 13th centuries AD, the Daily Mail said. This particular specimen, 1 meter long (3 feet) from nose to tail tip, was found by a locksmith in an old cellar of his shop in Niğde. He has put the creature on display.
Cats were revered and mummified in ancient Egypt, and some experts think Anatolia was influenced by the practice. One reason cats were so loved in Egypt was because they could eat the rodents that threatened the grain supplies. A cat could also take on a cobra, the Daily Mail says.
- Discovery of mummified kestrel reveals evidence for falconry in ancient Egypt
- Elaborate Native American burial of a bobcat in a funeral mound reserved for humans
- Ritual and Burial: The Strange and Elaborate Ways Humans Prepared Animals for the Afterlife
- Mummifying Millions: The Canine Catacombs and the Animal Cult Industry of Ancient Egypt
Some ancient Egyptians adorned their cats with gold jewelry and allowed them to eat off their plates.
Mummified cat from Ancient Egypt. (Public Domain)
Millions upon millions of animal mummies have been found in the dark, carved stone tunnels beneath the location of Egypt’s earliest pyramid at Saqqara. The necropolis of Saqqara is the burial site of kings, commoners and sacred animals.
The astounding piles of preserved animal remains 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 Catacombs of Anubis at North Saqqara,” a study published in 2015 in the archaeological journal Antiquity, examines the underground world associated with the temples dedicated to animal deities of ancient Egypt.
The Saqqara catacombs served as the burial places of animal tributes to the jackal-headed deity Anubis. Between this study, and other studies by Egyptologists from University of Manchester, it can be seen that the millions of dogs sacrificed and mummified to the canine deity were only one part of a wider practice of sacred animal cults.
A Hopewell culture burial mound from the Mound City Group in Ohio. (CC BY ND 2.0)
But the Egyptians mummified many cats too, though they are not the only people in the world to have buried felines with elaborate ceremony and in recognition of status or symbolism.
In 2015, archaeologists found the remains of a bobcat in an important mound burial from 2,000 years ago. The mound was usually reserved for humans, but the feline was important enough to the Hopewell people of western Illinois to be included. The bobcat had been decorated with sea shells and bear-teeth pendants, and found with its paws placed together. It was included in the human burial mound, while dogs were buried around the village. Researchers speculate the bobcat was a beloved pet, not sacrificed or violently killed, and that it held spiritual significance to the Native Americans.
Featured image: Examples of Egyptian animal mummies in the British museum. The experts don’t know if the mummified animal found in Turkey is a cat, other animal, or a hoax. (Mario Sánchez/ CC BY SA 2.0)
By Mark Miller