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Mummified Animals: Mummified Cats, Bulls, and More
Not All Mummies Were Human...
When we hear the word mummies, we usually think of a bunch of royal Egyptian dead guys. Believe it or not, pharaohs weren't the only people to get mummified in ancient Egypt. In fact, people weren't the only things to be mummified in ancient Egypt.
The Egyptians believed very strongly in an afterlife, so much so that they felt the body of the deceased person would be needed after death. Couple these beliefs with the fact that the Egyptians revered certain animals as sacred animals, and you've got yourself some mummified pets. You read it right...there are actually mummified animals from ancient Egypt in addition to the thousands of mummified people.
Certain times in ancient Egypt saw the worship of the sacred bull, also called the Apis Bull (though there were other sacred bulls researchers have found). The ancient Egyptians were known to have had certain cults that worshiped particular deities, and of course these deities had certain sacred animals. In the worship of the two gods Ptah and Osiris, the sacred apis bull was prominent. It is believed that the bull was sanctified somewhere around 800 BC and was continued to be held as sacred in some places until the fifth century BC.
Before the apis bull was used in correlation to the worship of Osiris and therefore the pharaoh, cattle was held sacred in relation to the divine feminine. Egyptian Goddesses such as Isis, Nut, and Hathor were all sometimes depicted in the form of a cow. It was said that the cow was also a representation of fertility for women. Of course when the Apis Bull came around, bulls were then linked with the divine male instead of female, and so Osiris was the main god associated with cows from that point forward.
It is thought that the ancient Egyptians would take very good care of the sacred bull, pampering them and giving them a really good life. They would also stare at the sacred bull for hours, watching its movements and listening to its sounds in order to determine answers to questions...sort of like a method of scrying or oracle-consulting.
So after learning how sacred bulls were to ancient Egyptians, it is no surprise that they indeed mummified bulls. The mummified bull at the Smithsonian Museum (first picture in this article) is actually not a full mummified body of the bull. The head is mummified with eyes painted on it, but the body is said to just be a mass of bones, skin, sand and wrappings. The theory as to why the entire body of this mummified bull is not present is that in certain times the pharaohs would eat the sacred bull, as a means of taking the gods' power into themselves. But this was not always the case; many times the sacred bull has been found with a complete mummified body and head.
We cannot talk about mummified animals without talking about the thousands of ancient Egyptian mummified cats. Many of us know how revered the domestic cat was in ancient Egypt, and so this should also come as no surprise that the ancient Egyptians mummified cats. Cats were held as sacred as they related to particular Egyptian goddesses - particularly Bast and her earlier lioness-form of Sekhmet. The ancient Egyptian god Ra was also depicted as a Great Cat who defeated the god Apep in The Egyptian Book of the Dead. It has also been found by researchers that the first domesticated cat came from ancient Egypt (not from Turkey as was once previously believed).
The mummified cats were first discovered in 1888, when an Egyptian farmer came across a sealed up tomb near the town of Beni Hasan. The tomb was found with approximately eighty thousand mummified cats and kittens, speculated to have been given as offerings to the goddess Bast (before Bast, mummified cats were given to Mafdet who was another cat Goddess before the popularity of Bast had spread).
Many of the times the mummified cats were pets buried alongside of their owner, but sometimes these cats and even kittens were sacrificed for the sole purpose of being made mummies. These mummified cats were then taken to the temple of particular goddesses to be made as offerings to the goddess (or god). Sad, but true.
Researchers and historians estimate mummified cats were made in the millions over the span of ancient Egyptian times. But mummified cats and kittens weren't the only mummified pet to the ancient Egyptians. Let's take a look at some more mummified animals...
More Mummified Animals in PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
More Mummified Animals...
In addition to mummified bulls and mummified cats, there were many other animals that the ancient Egyptians embalmed and mummified. Many of the royals' pets were mummified and placed in the tomb with their owner so that they could stay together in the afterlife.
Mummified jackals have been found (one being pictured to the right), as ancient Egyptians regarded jackals as sacred beings. This particular mummified jackal is thought to have been from the Roman period in Egypt, as the designs on the mummified jackal's wrappings are quite detailed and elaborate. The design of the mummified jackal's face is also quite idealized, according to the British Museum. If you were to look at a picture of a real jackal, you would see that they look quite different than what has been painted here. At the same time, the ancient Egyptians would usually sensationalize their mummies.
Mummified gazelles have been found buried along with two royal women. Some people believe they could have been ibises.
In one tomb in the Valley of the Kings, a mummified baboon and a mummified dog were positioned in such a way to look as though they are staring at one another...prepared to guard their owner.
To sum it up, we can draw the conclusion that the ancient Egyptians loved their animals...and they also loved making mummies.
Written and copyright © by Kitty the Dreamer (May Canfield), 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Watch a Video on Mummified Animals at the British Museum
Learn More on Ancient Egypt:
More on Mummies and Ancient Egypt:
- A Mummy Video and Interesting Mummy Facts
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- Haunted Egypt
With thousands of years of history (both peaceful and tumultuous times), the country and land of Egypt could very well be called Haunted Egypt. Take a little journey with me to the land of Haunted Egypt, and we'll discover ghosts of pharaohs and mumm