The exhibit was based on some of the millions of animal mummies found at 31 cemeteries throughout Egypt.
- Sometimes - although rarely - mummies of pets were buried with their owners (the best-known examples are from within the royal families)
- Game or farm animals were sometimes mummified as food offerings for the deceased and were included in tombs.
- Certain sacred animals (for example, they would raise a bull who was considered a god incarnate) would be mummified at death and given a royal burial
- But the most common animal mummies were votive: animals prepared for burial so that their souls would be set free to deliver messages to the gods.
To me, the really fascinating thing about that is that it shows the Egyptians thought animals had souls. Meanwhile, the exhibit said the "Hebrew, Greek, Roman and early Christian writings condemned and ridiculed the Egyptian view of animals." Pfffhtthh to that. (I'm so scholarly...)
|Baby crocodile mummy|
The exhibit said animals that represented certain gods (for example, crocodiles represented the god Sobek, a god of the Nile who brought fertility to the land) would be raised by priests in and around temples built for the gods. Then folks would come along, buy a crocodile mummy and offer up their message for the gods. In the case of the crocs, it said they would, er, dispatch the crocs when they were little, since it's obviously a lot easier to deal with the babies and mummify them over the full-grown variety.
Some of the mummies were also in wooden or bronze coffins, like this shrew coffin. (Isn't it cool?) Probably the richer you were, the more elaborate thing you would buy - cuz you wanted to make sure your message got received!
|Wooden shrew coffin|
There were also a couple of wooden cat coffins, one with gold still visible, showing that cats were “prized at all social levels in ancient Egypt.” Cats were buried in human cemeteries as far back as 4000-3000 BCE, suggesting “cats were domesticated from very early times.” The exhibit said the DNA of the mummified cats traces to today's domesticated house cat. (Of course it does, since cats KNOW they are still prized today.)
|Top: wooden cat coffin, Bottom: cat mummy & mummy X-ray|
The animals that were mummified were all ones that had a relationship with one or more deities, such as dogs and the god Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the underworld who guided and protected the spirits of the dead.
|Dog mummies, note the intricate folding on the top mummy|
The mummies were believed to act as messengers from the Egyptians to the gods, and they would pray for pretty much the same things folks do today... long life, better health, better working conditions, etc.
|Different views of an ibis mummy and X-ray|
A married couple with their pet dog
Yeah, I think I'd rather have the family pet memorialized with an engraving, rather than as a mummy.
But, hey - those ancient Egyptians weren't so different from us. They loved their cats and their dogs. (Look at the fancy little collar the dog in that stela is wearing!)
Thanks to BlogPaws for hosting Wordless Wednesday. Sorry I was so wordy, but I thought it was a super interesting exhibit!