Animal mummies from the Late Period-Ptolemaic Period (715-30 b.c.)
Animals were mummified for a number of reasons: they were considered earthly manifestations of the gods, to serve as food for the dead in the Afterlife, as offerings to the gods, or simply because they had been companions that would remain loyal for all eternity.
The Egyptian Museum collection has five animal mummies: a falcon, a crocodile, an ibis, and two cats (one adult and one kitten). The first radiological study was conducted by Javier Tomás Gimeno at the Radiology Department of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau in Barcelona. Based on this study, it was possible to identify the mummified animal as well as its position, condition and various pathologies.
Since the start of 2011, egyptologist Maria Luz Mangado has led a project focussed on the application of new image technologies for the study of animal mummies at our Museum and other institutions. The system used allows the image to be reconstructed in three dimensions, making the study and analysis much easier in the process. The Image Unit of the Applied Medical Research Centre of the University of Navarra (Gabriel Heras and Carlos Ortiz de Solórzano) and the Radiology Department of the University Clinic of Navarra (Gorka Bastarrika) participated in the project.
This mummy belongs to the falcon family. It could be a hobby (Falco subbuteo) or common kestrel (Falco tinnunculs or Falco naumanni). It is complete and in an outstretched position, with its feet extended and crossed in front of its tail. It has a fracture on its right humerus, which was sustained after the animal had died.
Adult cat mummy
X-rays show a complete adult cat, but cannot determine whether it is a felis silvestres (African wildcat) or its domesticated variant, the felis catus. Its front limbs are extended alongside the body and its hind limbs bent. The tail is positioned at the rear of the body, and contains fractures in some of its caudal vertebrae. There is no evidence of cervical fractures or dislocations (an unmistakable sign of animal sacrifice), due to the presence of three metal bars 5mm in diameter inserted by the owner of the mummy prior to its arrival at the Museum. As a result of this modification, it is not possible to determine the possible cause of death.
The only apparent injury to this kitten is a cranial trauma in the occipital region. The impact must have been significant, which would suggest that the animal was used as a sacrifice, as it is improbable that a cat could suffer such an injury as a result of an accident. The young age of the kitten is another sign that it could have been used as a sacrifice to the goddess Bastet. The sacrifice of animals bred for this purpose became widespread in Egypt from the Late Period onwards.
The mummy is of an African sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus). It is in a position similar to the ibis’ sleeping position: its legs are folded under its abdomen and its neck bent backwards, with its beak and head resting on its back. The bird does not have any injuries. Special mention must be made of a large number of shells of small snails in the abdomen.
A very young crocodile taken from the Nile (Crocodylus niloticus). The skeleton is complete and its limbs are outstretched alongside the body. It has a fracture in its spine, in the median dorsal area. However, it is difficult to determine whether or not this was the cause of death.
- › The “black pharaohs” excavation project (sudan) 1995-1996
- › Excavation and restoration project in meidum (egypt) 1997-2004
- › Cartonnage of the Woman in Gold
- › Papyrus of Lady Bary
- › Shroud of an egyptian called Bes
- › The Lady of Kemet. Cross-disciplinary study
- › Archaeological research at the Kom al-Ahmar excavation site (Sharuna, Middle Egypt), 2006-2014.