Animal Mummies OF ANCIENT EGYPT

May 10, 2011

Animal Mummies OF ANCIENT EGYPT

Most scientific research has concentrated on human mummified remains, but there have also been some studies on animal mummies.
The Egyptians worshiped many of their gods in the form of animals, and some gods could appear in the guise of different animals. Originally, most gods were depicted with complete animal forms, but by the early historical period (c.2900 BC), many of them had acquired some human characteristics so that they now possessed human bodies attached to bird or animal heads.


Others, however, were represented entirely as humans. Gods could be worshiped in the form of cult statues, as cult animals kept at the temples, or simply through the belief that they were present in all the animals of the corresponding species. In this way, the deity, made manifest in a variety of forms, would become more widely accessible to the believer. Animal worship continued and flourished throughout ancient Egyptian history, and although individual animals were not regarded as gods in themselves, they were acknowledged as manifestations of the invisible power of the deity and were therefore highly regarded in the society.

Different types of funerary procedures were accorded to various categories of animals. Evidence indicates that the Egyptians kept house- hold pets, including cats, dogs, monkeys, and gazelles, and that some of these were mummified and placed in special coffins and tombs.
It was clearly hoped that they would accompany their owners into the afterlife.
In the Late and Greco-Roman Periods, there was also a custom of presenting dead, mummified animals as votive offerings to gods at particular temples. Pilgrims could purchase animals that had been specially bred at these sites as representatives of the species sacred to the local deity. These animals were then killed, mummified, and placed in nearby catacombs as gifts to the gods. The most famous catacombs at Saqqara accommodated the burials of thousands of animals, including dogs, cats, baboons, rams, ibises, monkeys, bulls, and cows.
Many of these animals were votive offerings, but others were the sacred cult animals that were kept in some of the temples.
Some baboons found at Saqqara, for example, belonged to this group, but undoubtedly the most famous of these cult animals are the Apis bulls. The priests selected the bulls according to the presence of certain physical characteristics, and each Apis bull was regarded as the incarnation of the god Ptah. It was provided with a harem of sacred cows and received worship at the temple throughout its lifetime.
When it died, another animal was selected to replace it. The dead bull received an elaborate funeral: It was mummified then buried in a stone coffin in the Serapeum, a vast subterranean structure at Saqqara.
Herodotus, in The Histories, described three basic techniques used for human mummification, and the second method was probably also employed for animals, although other methods were available. The Apis bulls were elaborately treated according to the method described by Herodotus: They were eviscerated, probably by injecting a corrosive liquid through the anus, and then dehydrated by means of dry natron. However, simpler techniques were used for other animals, such as some of the birds: They were either just wrapped in linen bandages or dipped in resin before wrapping.
No evisceration was carried out on crocodiles; they were simply cured with salt or natron.
Although far fewer modern studies have been carried out on animal mummies than on human remains, several radiological examinations have been undertaken. These have provided interesting information; for example, studies of cats have shown that in some cases their necks were broken, indicating that they were probably specially bred to become votive offerings. Also, X rays sometimes reveal surprising and unexpected contents in the bundles. The animal represented on the outer casing and wrapping does not always correspond to the mummy inside: Sometimes the bundle holds an animal of a different species, or eggs containing recognizable fetuses, or single bones or feathers, or wrapped sticks.
The embalmers were clearly not always meticulous about providing the pilgrims with the complete animal for which they had paid.

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