Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Animals in Ancient Egypt Killed Professionally Before Mummification

Animals in Ancient Egypt Killed Professionally Before Mummification

Wednesday, 14 October, 2020 - 06:45
An archaeologist works inside the tomb of Khufu-Imhat, at the Saqqara area near its necropolis, in Giza, Egypt November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Death secrets of mummified animals in ancient Egypt could have remained hidden under their linen wraps; however, micro CT scans have enabled a British research team to study the internal structures of these animals and helped its members uncover the secrets behind their death.

In a study published in the latest issue of the Scientific Reports journal, the team used micro CT equipment at the Advanced Imaging of Materials (AIM) facility at Swansea University to scan three mummies of a cobra, a falcon, and a cat owned by the university. The scanning helped the researchers uncover the professional methods used to kill these animals before mummifying them.

Evidence found by the team suggest that the cobra had its spine broken. Fractures along the snake's spine indicate it was killed using a common bull-whipping method that severely damaged the right side of the skull, and eliminated the nose, upper jaw, and fangs.

The examination of the cat mummy showed the animal was less than five months old, and died after its neck was deliberately snapped. While this death was previously reported in two-dimensional X-rays, the first suggested sample of such a practice involving an ancient Egyptian cat was identified in the new three-dimensional scan that doesn't require the elimination of embalming covers.

In the falcon's mummy, the study showed damages in the beak, which complicated the surface examination of the bird. But the micro-CT scan enabled the researchers to measure the bones and identify the type of the bird known as Eurasian kestrel. The scan also showed fractures in the left humerus and wrist caused the death of the animal. The three studied animals had a spiritual value in ancient Egypt. The cat named "Bastet," was the goddess of tenderness, and humbleness, and symbolized fertility, love, and sympathy.

The cobra symbolized Goddess "Wedjat," the matron and protector of Lower Egypt, which was featured on the crowns of Egypt's rulers. After the unity with Upper Egypt, Wedjat became the protector of both the tribal and marine sides of the kingdom. Finally, the falcon represented God Horus in the form of a man with a falcon head.

Editor Picks