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A cat mummy on display at Aksaray Museum. 	Source: IHA/ Daily Sabah

1000-year-old Cat and Baby Mummies on Display in Turkey’s Aksaray Museum

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The museum at Aksaray, the gateway of Turkey’s Cappadocia region to the West, holds a very special mummy section that displays as many as 13 local mummies to interested visitors. Astonishingly, apart from adult humans, the mummies include babies and even a cat, and are believed to be a thousand years old, reports Daily Sabah . It is, in fact, Turkey’s only museum with a mummy section.

“With 13 mummies in our Aksaray Museum, we are the only museum in Turkey with a mummy section. There is one mummy in each of the Amasya and Niğde Museums, but our museum has the only section exhibited in this way ... in our country,” Yusuf Altin, the museum’s director is quoted as saying.

Aksaray’s fascinating 11,000-year-old history

Aksaray’s history begins 11,000 years ago with the first Pre-Pottery period Neolithic settlement at Aşıklı Höyük around 8200 BC. Since then, Aksaray and its surroundings were continually inhabited till the Chalcolithic Age. The Hittites, with their empire centered on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia, controlled the Aksaray region from around 1600 BC to 1180 BC.  Aksaray also saw Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine rule, reports Arkeonews.

Christianity began to spread in Anatolia the first century AD through the efforts of St Paul and his disciples in. Facing persecution from the Romans, Christians began to settle in more remote and safer places like the Aksaray region, which was also well-suited to priests seeking seclusion. Churches and houses were carved into the rocky slopes of the valleys.

The Arab-Byzantine wars between the seventh and 12th centuries saw a retreat of Christians to the Ihlara and Manastır Valley region. The remains of rock-cut houses, graves and churches can be seen along the slopes of the Ilhara Valley which became a prominent settlement for Byzantine Christians. Just 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from the Ilhara Valley is the well-known site of Canli (bell) Church, so named after the church, which is a rare example of a masonry church in the Cappadocia region. The Canli Church is in fact a very fine specimen of Byzantine architecture.

Child mummies in the Aksaray Museum. (IHA/ Daily Sabah)

Child mummies in the Aksaray Museum. (IHA/ Daily Sabah )

The 13 Mummies of Aksaray Museum

The 13 mummies on display in special temperature- and humidity-controlled cases in Aksaray Museum date from the 10th to the 12th century and were found in excavations in and around Aksaray. Many are from the Ilhara Valley, sometimes referred to as the “Valley of Mummies” and the Canli Church site. “All of our mummies are from the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries. So, they are almost a thousand years old,” Altin said according to Daily Sabah .

Although embalming the dead is commonly associated with ancient Egypt, it was practiced in several parts of the ancient world. Highlighting the pretty pervasive nature of the practice in the Aksaray region, Esra Cetin, an archaeologist from the Aksaray Museum is cited in a 2021 article in TRT World , “Mummifying the dead was a widespread ancient practice in the lands we now call Aksaray. Mummification can even be considered a well-known artform.”

In fact, the mummification process in Turkey was significantly different from the Egyptian one. Describing it, Altin said, as quoted by Arkeonews:

“Of these mummies, the baby mummy is very technical work in itself. Because the mummification technique in our country is different from the mummification technique in Egypt. In this technique, after the person dies, the internal organs of the corpse are removed, the wax is melted and the corpse is covered with a layer of glaze. Then it is covered with fabric and shroud. It is buried in the ground in this way and the corpse remains preserved for centuries after it dries. We bring our mummies from these excavations to our museum and exhibit them. In particular, we also exhibit the embroideries of necklaces, booties, and shrouds on them.”

A special attraction of the mummy section is the mummy of a cat, evidently much loved by its owner, that fascinates visitors, particularly children. According to Arkeonews, Altin said, “We have another mummy, the cat mummy, which especially attracts the attention of our children. Our cat mummy was covered with wax and preserved, probably because it was loved by its owner. So, we have been displaying it in our museum.

Aksaray Museum’s mummy section may not rival those in Egyptian Museums but there is plenty in it to captivate the interest of visitors. Apart from all else, it’s not every day that a cat lover of the Aksaray sort is to be encountered!

Top image: A cat mummy on display at Aksaray Museum. Source: IHA/ Daily Sabah

By Sahir Pandey

References

Arkeonews. 2022. 1000-year-old Cats and Babies mummies of Turkey’s . Available at: https://arkeonews.net/1000-year-old-cats-and-babies-mummies-of-turkeys/.

Daily Sabah. 2022. Cats and babies: Thousand-year-old mummies in Turkey’s Aksaray . Available at:  https://www.dailysabah.com/life/history/cats-and-babies-thousand-year-old-mummies-in-turkeys-aksaray.

Naz Balkiz, K. 2021. Mummies in Anatolia: Expect the unexpected . Available at: https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/mummies-in-anatolia-expect-the-unexpected-52987.

Comments

Invisihole's picture

Since you're unable to do any actual research, here are some ancient greek words for funeral as well;
From θάπτω (tháptō, “I bury")
τᾰ́φος • (táphos) m (genitive τᾰ́φου); second declension
Related terms: Editταφή f (tafí, “burial”)
ταφόπετρα f (tafópetra, “gravestone”)
ταφόπλακα f (tafóplaka, “gravestone”) and see: θάβω (thávo, “bury”)
For other uses of "epitaphios", see Epitaphios.

A funeral oration or epitaphios logos (Greek: ἐπιτάφιος λόγος) is a formal speech delivered on the ceremonial occasion of a funeral. Funerary customs comprise the practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from the funeral itself, to various monuments, prayers, and rituals undertaken in their honour. In ancient Greece and, in particular, in ancient Athens, the funeral oration was deemed an indispensable component of the funeral ritual.

After 1100 BC, Greeks began to bury their dead in individual graves rather than group tombs. Athens, however, was a major exception; the Athenians normally cremated their dead and placed their ashes in an urn. During the early Archaic period, Greek cemeteries became larger, but grave goods decreased.

This was all copied and pasted from actual scientifically reviewed research. Note the date. 1100BC. Read The Odyssey, Iliad, for more insight. I would feel sorry for you but you are willfully ignorant. You're old enough to be better.

Invisihole's picture

The ancient greek word for funeral is ekphora (funeral procession), and the interment of the body or cremated remains of the deceased. Did you catch the word interment? Do you know its meaning? It floors me that you completely ignore the centuries of tradition that NUMEROUS cultures have. Some intersect and some differ. For example, some cultures wrap up their dead in ropes while leaving offerings for the after life. Some cultures will keep their loved ones corpse in their home in different positions for years and again, present it w gifts of things they loved in their lifetime, alcohol, tobacco, ect. Many cultures mummified, using a variety of techniques. Some cultures buried in caves, with offerings to the after life. What is left varies from culture to culture. But again, PLEASE EXPLAIN how you know more than the many many cultures that STILL PRACTICE these various techniques and burying practices. It's not just one simple way, from one culture from one time in history. They have been going on since earths conception and SOME ARE STILL HAPPENING TODAY. Put the conspiracy sites away, read actual facts and stop being brainwashed by ignorant sloths. Freaking ridiculous.

Invisihole's picture

The technique you're suggesting as phony has been written about and passed down orally through numerous cultures and civilizations. Different techniques for different cultures and these techniques have also changed throughout the years when the people would learn or discover new ways. Please do some actual scientific research into the ancient past, other than what is seemingly coming from conspiracy only, non scientifically reviewed websites. You're embarrassing yourself. Mummies have been discovered all over the globe, from different eras, and revealing different techniques. So, PLEASE EXPLAIN this NATURAL CATASTROPHIC EVENT that would have had to happen OVER AND OVER again. In order to explain how millions of people/pets/sacrifices were mummified. I won't hold my breath.

Pete Wagner's picture

From Wikipedia:  "A mummy is a dead human or an animal whose soft tissues and organs have been preserved by either intentional or ACCIDENTAL exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air, so that the recovered body does not decay further if kept in cool and dry conditions."

We’re seemingly ALWAYS led to believe mummies are the product of an intentional ‘technique’ of sorts, whereby we imagine some modern process involving embalming and removing organs.  But that explanation, along with the equally dubious idea that our ancient ancestors would intentionally bury their dead in the caverns in which they lived and cooked and made beer and stored foods, etc., ...makes very little sense.  (Note: The ancient Greek ROOT word for FUNERAL means TORCH, as in funeral pyre – the age old way, which in ceremonial fashion does deliver a loved one to the heavens above vice the hell below.  Upon some research, we find that modern burial practices, e.g., cemeteries and grave stones, are NOT age-old, but at some point possibly around the time of Jesus, promoted by organized religion for some strange or devious reason.)  What makes much more sense is that the living beings that became mummified were alive down in those caverns when a regional or global calamity struck, rendering ruin to the surface above and creating a sterile atmospheric dead zone that spread down into the caverns, killing all or most and leaving many right where they died, to lay idly for thousands of years until discovered, well after the proverbial smoke had cleared.  Beyond God’s truth, what more may lie undiscovered?

Nobody gets paid to tell the truth.

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