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70 million animal mummies They have been found in the catacombs of Egypt, among which we find cats, birds, rodents and even crocodiles. But what is surprising is that the researchers who have scanned animal mummies have been found mostly empty.
A team of radiographers and Egyptologists at the University of Manchester have used the latest medical advances to scan animal mummies, collected from up to 30 different locations in Egypt during the 19th and 20th centuries, as reported by the BBC. The University of Manchester has used different scan and x-ray techniques to view 800 of the mummies, dated between 1000 BC. and 400 AD, inside.
In a press release from the University of Manchester, Lead Researcher Dr Lidija McKnight stated: 'We have always known that not all animal mummies were going to contain what we expected, but we have found a third that do not contain any animal matter inside, any type of skeleton«.
In Ancient Egypt, numerous Gods were worshiped in the form of animals. Mummified animals were considered sacred gifts and they were offerings, being a very popular practice, so the demand for some animals was very great.
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McKnight told the Washington Post: «They offered these mummies so that the Gods would reward them with something in return, that was the usefulness of animal mummies in the religion of Ancient Egypt and that is why we believe there are so many. It was a type of industry that grew a lot and lasted for 1000 years.
During the study Various animal mummies were analyzed including cats, birds, shrews and a crocodile. The scans showed that the mummified crocodile had eight small crocodiles that had been prepared and tied together and wrapped with the mother in a single mummy.
A cat mummy presents only some pieces of cat bone and many other objects that are not part of the animal, some of these filler objects have been considered special and still represent some kind of symbolic explanation.
One of the tombs contains around two million mummified birds and a network of tombs that house eight million dog mummies. These animal mummy finds suggest that the animal mummy industries in ancient Egypt was very extensive.
The BBC has reported that some experts believe that the animal mummies were produced for Egyptian pilgrims and that embalmers could increase their profits by selling fake mummiesAlthough other researchers such as Dr. Lidija McKnight believe that embalmers believed that even the smallest parts of animals were sacred and therefore went to great lengths to mummify them properly.
The Saqqara complex stores million animal mummies and much remains to be excavated and cataloged by experts. Sally Wasef, a molecular biologist at Griffith University in Australia, has collected bone samples from these mummies to analyze the DNA to determine whether they were created or just reproductions. Making so many mummies is thought to require a massive industry, described as a national obsession.
In 2011, Melinda Zeder, a Smithsonian Curator, spoke of the animal industry phenomenon to the BBC and stated thatancient Egyptians were obsessed with life and not death and therefore all the effort they invested in preparing the mummies was looking for the perpetuation of life after death: «The priests would sacrifice the animal for you, mummify it, and then place it on a catatomb with your name on it. In this way, approval was obtained in the eyes of God, whatever its form.«.
Through the University of Manchester much research has been done on the issues of the mummy industry, McNight has found that the preservation of religious offerings offers modern science to investigate about religious questions, death and life.