Manchester Museum conducted the largest scanning project of animal mummies from ancient Egypt. The results were fascinating for the team who saw only one third of mummies containing actual remains of animals.
Followed by the BBC’s Horizon Programme, the findings featured in a documentary on BBC, Horizon-70 Million Animal Mummies: Egypt’s Dark Secret.
Making use of CT scans and Xray scans, the team put over eight hundred mummies in the spotlight. To their surprise, they find only one third contained the remains of the animals presumed to be found in the cloth. Another third was made up of other organic materials, such as twigs, eggshells or others. Some contained partial remains of the animals. The last third were fully empty, with just the cloth reminding of the specific animal that was supposed to be found inside.
Far from being labeled as a scam, this finding is believed to speak much about the economic aspect as well as the religious aspects of ancient Egypt. Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that animal mummifying had a purely spiritual and religious significance.
As opposed to preservation of the human body which was believed transcend in the afterlife. With animals such as dogs, cats or crocodiles believed to have impersonated Egyptian gods, they were meant to accompany the buried human body into the world beyond. And ease their passage.
Adding the fact that in over 30 catacombs discovered in Egypt the rooms were filled with animal mummies it is clear that at times the demand was highly above the offer. Manufacturers couldn’t face the demand of the market, yet it is believed at this point that buyers were aware of their acquisitions.
To this extent, it is estimated that over 70 million animals were mummified by the Egyptians. The number of „fake mummies” cannot be estimated.
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