Animal Mummies

Going back to a topic that we have already tested and finished, yet still holds my interest, I would again like to talk about the Egyptians and their burial rituals. There is just something about Egypt and their culture that I find utterly fascinating. I do not know if it is because of the myths and the things like the “theories” we learned about, but I think that even though I know the pyramids were not built by aliens, I still find them interesting and mysterious. When I was trying to think of an interesting blog topic, I knew that I would like to find something that had to do with Egyptian culture and while looking through the website, I found an article and slide show that sparked my interest.

The article that I found to read was “Messengers to the Gods” and an accompanying slide show “Animal Mummy Coffins of Ancient Egypt”. Now these may sound a little weird yet we have to think about our own culture. We in America, have the economical means to have domesticated animals for a pleasure purpose, as a pet and friend. And it may not be routine to bury our animals, however, there are many cemeteries in the United States that are dedicated to only the burial of our house pets. My childhood cat, Bo Jackson, is one of those fortunate pets to be buried in a nice little animal cemetery.

On the topic of animal mummies, I will not say that I knew very much, however, I have heard about the topic connected to ancient Egypt before. I knew about how wealthy Egyptians and pharaohs were buried with worldly items so that they would be brought with them to the after world. They were buried with amazing interesting and outstanding things, such as whole boats, tons of furniture, gold, and even their servant staff! And I was really shocked to realize there was a much more popular way that animal mummies were used.

Through this article, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Egyptians thought animals have souls, just like humans, and that there is no word for animal in Egyptian. What the Egyptians generally and most abundantly used animal mommies for was giving them as offerings to the gods. Most animals that were mummified were connected to a specific god. Through the slide show, I got to look at beautifully crafted, small sarcophagi, showing how much effort and detail was put into these offerings. A strange connection that our culture has with theirs is the fact that you can find animal cemeteries in Egyptian necropolis. However, in contrast, we bury ours for a loss, and they bury theirs for an offering. I would suggest that everyone look at the slide show and look at just how much effort you can see went into the death and offerings of animals compared to what we know about the burial of a pharaohs.

5 thoughts on “Animal Mummies

  1. This is a really interesting post. The fact that Ancient Egyptians held their animal companions in such high esteem says a lot about their culture. Though their processes would be considered primitive by today’s standards, the tradition of mummification is almost scientific in nature. The Ancient Egyptians had specific and detailed instructions for the act of mummification, they had a hypothesis for each organ and its purpose, and they had complex steps to follow for success in the afterlife. Yes, their beliefs were inaccurate, but the fact that they followed each step meticulously hints at a pseudo-scientific culture. Should we dismiss their practices as the works of pagan extremists, or do we have more to learn from the Ancient Egyptians? Their relationship with animals is noteworthy to say the least, and may have indirect uses in today’s society as well.

    • Perhaps our construction of pet cemeteries signifies an everlasting relationship with animals that is ingrained in humans as a species. Though the process of mummification is less extreme in modern times, does our need to know that our deceased pets are well preserved signify a link to the past? It can be speculated that the Ancient Egyptians were on to something, and no matter how far we have come as a species, we will forever have roots based in ancient practices. Some of those practices may still be around, just in different forms.

  2. I found your post very interesting and informative because I did not know much about animal mummies either. As I researched about animal mummies in ancient Egypt, I learned that mummified cats were first discovered by a farmer in 1888. Clearly, ancient Egyptians highly respected their animals as is seen through numerous depictions of animals in their artwork and writing, and mummification. I was curious to understand why dead bodies of ibises were the most commonly preserved. The ibis was a representation of the god Thoth who according to Egyptian mythology played many important roles; among them was being an arbitrator. It is believed that once when the ibis was used an offering, flies that caused disease died immediately.

    Also, I wanted to know if there was any difference between how humans and animals were mummified. It was interesting to find out that the mummification of animals actually began many years after the mummification of humans (mummification of animals is believed to have begun during the Badarian Predynastic Period; 5500–4000BC). One of the reasons could be that it was expensive and was in fact only popular among the pharaohs and nobles of ancient Egypt. It is likely that animal mummies were not given as much attention compared to human mummies. One article I read on the National Geographic website mentioned that when they were first discovered, only a number of cat mummies still looked presentable but the rest were sold out as fertilizer. When humans were mummified in those days, their whole bodies were preserved. It was striking to note that ancient Egyptians did not preserve the internal organs of animals.

  3. Despite the different reasons for burial which you mentioned, i think that the importance which the Ancient Egyptians put on animals is very similar to how we treat pets today. People spoil and pamper their pets now, just like they did in ancient Egypt, but with focus today on their lives rather than deaths. Compare buying shoes, outfits, and countless toys for our dogs to the creation of an elaborate, gold sarcophagi for them. These similarities in culture are interesting to me, in part, because of the lack of importance we see on animals in so many other cultures. Why are the same animals revered in one or several cultures, and nearly ignored in others? Also how these beliefs of animal importance have evolved over time from symbols of gods to importance as an individuals or family members is very compelling.

  4. In ancient Egyptian culture it is very evident the roles that animals and their spirits played. First, we can talk about the idea of spirituality and the importance of the afterlife in Egyptians society. The site of one’s burial was so important as it showed the world of the living and the dead their prestige and importance. The afterlife was to serve as a new beginning and bringing the fruits and skills of the world of the living would make the transition that much easier. It is pretty plain to see how animals could fit in to this equation. The saying that a dog is “man’s best friend,” did not come around for no reason. Cats can fit this role as well and they seemed to be the pet of choice and reverence for Egyptians during this period. Structures like the sphinx and other such statues served to embody the cat as an otherworldly being or sort of blessed creature. If humans are important enough to be mummified and preserved, than their companions should rationally follow suit. When I was in London my family and I visited the British museum where such things as the Rosetta Stone and sarcophagi are available for display. In this museum there was an entire floor devoted to mummies that had been exhumed from the crypts in Egypt. The amount of different animals that had been mummified was one of the most interesting things to me. There were a few cats of course, but there were also the bodies of a monkey and even a couple of snakes that had been mummified!

Comments are closed.