Throughout the history of ancient Egypt, animals were highly respected and pharaohs believed that animals were crucial to physical and spiritual survival because they were a major source of food and their treatment was key for entry into the afterlife. Some animals were considered to be incarnations of the deities, which explains why Egyptians wanted to hold such animals in the highest regard, giving them a proper burial through mummification after they died. In the sixties, archaeologists stumbled across a series of tunnels in Saqqara filled with millions of mummified animals, but the Science Channel’s “Egypt’s Unexplained Files” revealed why a recent CT scan of the burials shocked experts.
The series said in 2019: “Scientists re-examining a large haul of ancient mummified animals want to see what lies beneath the bandages, but strict government rules mean they’re not allowed to unwrap the remains.
“Instead, they turn to scanning technology, usually reserved for the living.
“The mummified remains were originally discovered in the Sixties, unearthed at the ancient temple complex of Saqqara, 15 miles from Cairo – the site of the oldest pyramid in Egypt
“Digging under the site, they made a macabre discovery.
Digging under the site, they made a macabre discovery
Egypt’s Unexplained Files
“Further excavation revealed more and more chambers, each filled with different mummified animals.”
Campbell Price, from Manchester University, explained why CT scanning is helping archaeologists advance their research.
He added: “Nowadays we can use CT scans and X-rays to look inside the mummy bundles in great detail.
“You can see exactly what’s inside without damaging the bundle itself.
“This was one of the biggest excavations anywhere in the world in the Sixties, they broke into a network of tunnels filled with millions of pots filled with ancient Egyptian animal mummies.
“This is perhaps one of the strangest finds we have from the ancient world.”
Archaeologist Salima Ikram explained how several different species were found.
She said: “You have raptors in one, ibis birds in another, cows in the third, millions of animals in the gallery and its vast underground zoo.
“Ibises were associated with the god Thoth, cats with the god Bastet, so really all of these animals were associated with some kind of divinity.
“Sometimes when you scan something, you get what you think you will – it looks like a bird, you get a bird.
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“But sometimes it’s not, sometimes there’s just a bundle of feathers, or just one bone.”
But, after the team scanned the mummies, they received some shocking results.
Dr Price added: “About one-third contain the full skeleton of the animal we expect, another third contains part of the animal and the last third contain nothing animal-related.
“It begs the question, what on Earth is going on here?
“You give them [the dead] an offering that you hope they will pass on to the gods and eventually bury with you in the underground catacombs.”
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