Most Unusual Dog Burial Ever Unearthed in Egypt
A leading expert on animal mummies has released the results of a new analysis on a discovery made in 2009 in Egypt where archaeologists found a highly unusual canine burial in a large mud-brick structure in Abydos, one of Egypt’s oldest standing royal monuments. Two well preserved dogs were found curled up inside large ceramic pots, dating back around 3,000 years. A large number of mummified dogs and dog cemeteries have been found throughout Egypt, but it is the first time that dogs have been found in burial jars.
Nicknamed Houdini and Chewie, the dogs still had their fur largely intact. Houdini was found in a large two-handled pot, and buried without any wrappings. His fur was a brown-auburn colour and appears to have been coated by an oil or resin, perhaps for preservation. Due to the size of the dog, the researchers could not work out how he was placed inside the jar so they named him after the magician, Houdini. They have not yet been able to remove Houdini from the jar to work out his exact breed, however, the colour and long-length of his fur is quite unusual compared to other dogs of the time.
The other dog, Chewie, was not as well preserved and was found in a large jar filled with the broken pieces of another pot, possibly placed there as packing material to keep the dog in position.
Houdini and Chewie were about 5 years old when they died and it is believed that they held the position of sacred animals, considering the way in which they were buried and the important site in which they were found. Abydos was built around 2750 BC and was dedicated to Khasekhemwy, a second dynasty king. It is also known for the thousands of ibis burials in jars found nearby and the interments of other animals.
“Of the many jars that were recovered, only 13 have thus far been properly investigated. Of these, four were empty, three contained ibises, and five were filled with dogs,” said Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at The American University in Cairo. Three of the pots contained skeletonised remains of dogs, while the other two were the preserved remains of Houdini and Chewie.
“Sealed and buried in layers of protective sand, and cocooned in their jars, the animals’ bodies were well preserved so that they could serve as vehicles for their spirits, or kas, for eternity,” Ikram said.
It is hoped that further examination and chemical testing can take place to understand the process in which the two dogs were preserved.