Divine Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt

Divine Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt

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Delighted to see everyone here. Welcome to all of you who
are physically with us, and also to all of those of
you watching on Facebook Live. We here in Cambridge
are delighted to assist in the temporary escape from New
Haven for Dr. Salima Ikram, who is currently serving
out her sentence– I mean, who is
teaching as a visiting professor at Yale University. She’s also a distinguished
professor of Egyptology at the American
University in Cairo and extraordinary professor
at Stellenbosch University. And she’s worked in
Egypt since 1986. After double
majoring in history, as well as classical and near
eastern archeology at Bryn Mawr College, she received
her MPhil degree in musicology and
Egyptian archeology. And then her PhD in
Egyptian archeology from Cambridge University. She’s directed the Animal
Mummy Project, co-director the Pre-Dynastic Gallery Project
and the North Kharga Oasis Survey, and is director of the
North Kharga Oasis Darb Ain Amur Survey and the Amenmesse
Mission of Tombs KV10 and KV63 in the Valley of the Kings. But you might know her best
from the many appearances she’s made on television
documentaries, where her scholarly expertise and
wonderful on-camera presence have enhanced many a scene. Dr. Ikram has
written several books for adults and for children
and published a wide variety of scholarly articles
with topics ranging from mummification
to the eating habits of the ancient Egyptians. And just this week I’m
delighted to report she was inducted into the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences located
right here in Cambridge. Tonight she will share
some of the secrets she has unlocked concerning
divine creatures, animal mummies in ancient Egypt. Dr. Salima Ikram. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, Peter, for
that lovely introduction. And to you too. It’s a great honor
and a pleasure– tell me if it gets echoie. It’s a great honor and
a pleasure to be here. I’m moving away from
that microphone. Because I spent the first
four years of my life in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And spent a lot of it in the
archeology museum, the Peabody, and with glass floors, and doing
probably unspeakable things in the dugout canoes because we
were allowed to at that time. So, and also it’s
very nice to be here with Peter, who when
I was a baby Egyptologist, was most helpful and supportive
when I was doing my PhD and did not laugh at my
topic on meat mummification. So you can see
where it takes you. Anyway, everyone knows that
the ancient Egyptians mummified humans, but not as many
people know that they also mummified animals. Now, the mummy is an
artificially preserved body of a human or an animal. And so artificial is key. So all those people who pretend
that bog bodies and freeze died people are mummies,
barking up the wrong tree. So the word mummia comes
from this black goo. And I use that word advisedly. It’s a technical term. So if you have not tested
this black material, which in the ancient
world they thought was bitumen, or not
in the ancient world, but historically people
thought that this was bitumen. And the word for that in
Arabic was mum or mummia. And the idea was that
these things that were made with mummia
were made with bitumen and were very
precious and important to the Arab doctors, and
later the Western physicians. But that’s what
gave this the name. So it comes from
the term bitumen and from a mistaken idea
that these creatures over there and people were
preserved using this material. Now, animals were
very, very important to the ancient Egyptians
for a variety of things. Obviously we know
from the basic thing that food, clothing,
raw materials come from the animal world, but
also give the ancient Egyptians their language,
some of the sounds, because they loved
onomatopoeia, as well as the letters themselves
are derived from animals. We also have gods who
are animal derived. And in fact, each god
had an animal totem. So you can see that
these creatures had a major, major role in the
lives of the ancient Egyptians. Now, here we can see we have
a couple of animal mummies to lead you in gently. We have a huge variety
of animals that were mummified from ancient Egypt. So you can see that they go– they include mammals, reptiles,
birds, insects down here, little scarab beetles. And also, here we
actually have eggs. So really it is quite a panoply. However, one might think
that creatures such as these were very important and were
well regarded historically once people started to dig them
up, but that was not the case, either for humans
or for animals. So a lot of mummies
have been used as fuel. They have been ground
up, because they thought that they were made of
bitumen, and eaten as medicine. Exactly. At one point, Augustus
Stanwood of Maine, during the American
Civil War, wanted to make brown paper to
wrap up the Sunday roast. And of course, there
was a cotton crisis on. So he thought, well,
I’ve been to Egypt, I know what they have a lot of. So he gathered the mummies,
took the wrappings, took the mummies,
used the wrappings, and mushed them up and
turned them into brown paper and used them to wrap the Sunday
roast, until someone finds out. Cat mummies in particular
suffered hideous deaths, as it were. After being revered by
the ancient Egyptians and mummified, they wind up
being used as fertilizer, because they were taken
as ballast for ships. And so they were put
into holds of boats, so they wouldn’t come back from
Egypt going, bob, bob, bob, bob, bob. And when they got to Marseilles
or Liverpool or wherever, in the beginning they were
just being thrown overboard, but after a while they
thought, well, that’s a waste. So let’s sell them
as fertilizer. So we have the
nice punch cartoon showing you mummies being ground
up and used as fertilizer. And whether this is an
apocryphal tale or not, someone has said that because
they were in the ship’s hold when there was a
lot of water that had bacteria of
different varieties, people started to get sick. And so they put it
down to the mummies and stopped importing
them in quite that way, or at least stopped
using them in that way. Now, we have many different
types of animal mummies. And I will go through
those as we progress. There are pets, which you all
understand, because many people here– how many
people here have pets? How many people here have cats? Peter. OK. Well, the ancient
Egyptians were big on pets. And we will talk about them. And of course, you
understand the desire to take your beloved
pet with you. Food mummies are
a very particular ancient Egyptian
type, sacred animals, which won them the
criticism of the Romans. Votive offerings,
which is what you will see, both in the Peabody
and the Semitic Museum. And of course, because
we are archaeologists and sometimes we have to admit
that we don’t know things, that we can’t make
them up enough and ritual purposes
won’t suffice, so that is when we say, other. So why do we study
animal mummies? Now we study them, because
instead of throwing them away, because we actually realize
that there is a lot that can be derived from them. We can learn about ancient
climate and environment, different species
and their evolution. Recently there has been
an increase in DNA work to try and establish this. Veterinary practices of
the ancient Egyptians. Obviously, their religious
and cultural beliefs. Technology of mummification. Trade. What kind of materials are being
used to make these mummies? Do they all come from Egypt? And even within Egypt,
what is the trade network? Which of course,
leads to economy. And also, sometimes
the animals themselves. Exotic pet import and
export actually probably started in ancient Egypt. By looking at animal
mummies we can see if there is
diachronic change by looking at the
wrappings, or is it fashion? Or is it geography? Or is it the
particular hand of one great artiste who says, I
will embalm and wrap that. But it is a question
that we have because we have so
many different styles. And most of the
animal mummies we have were unfortunately
taken and not excavated in a proper stratigraphic way. So this is why we have
so many more questions about these particular
group of artifacts than we would about others. Now, how do we study
animal mummies? Pretty much in the
same way we do humans. To look at them and to
learn how they were made and to extract as much data
out of them as possible, we use the mummies themselves. And obviously the
first thing to do is carry out a
visual analysis, then we do radiographs, CT scans,
if you have the money. And you can also test
the embalming materials, which gives us a great insight
into how they were made and also where the
materials came from. So x-rays are sometimes– if it’s in a museum, it’s
much nicer and easier. But most often we
are in the field balancing our x-ray machine
on one place or the other. Sometimes we can
do museum CT scans. This is at the Smithsonian,
where this baboon is going in to be checked out. And these give us
extraordinary results, because in the old, old
days, in the 19th century, and even the start of the 20th
century, what people were doing was unwrapping. Which I will be shot
down by museum curators for saying this,
but it does actually have a place in the field
when you have a damaged object and there is no
hope of recuperation because you get some
information out of it, which allows you to much better
interpret your images. Of course, by now the
imaging is too sophisticated that it’s not necessarily the
case, but in the early days, having unwrapped bits of
mummies that were a bit of a leg or a bit of an arm
or a half an ibis, it taught you a
lot, so that when you looked at these
radiographs or the CT scans, you would say, oh, I
know what’s going on. No. What you’re saying is completely
wrong, because I’ve seen it. If you twist it this way you
will see that this is really a handful of straw stuffed
into the mummy rather than some dread disease that it has. So as you can see,
this is sort of– by doing these CTs you can
basically undress and then dress an entire cat going
from skeleton outward, which is, of course, an invaluable
way of studying these creatures and gives us enormous insights
into all of the questions I have mentioned. Now, how are mummies made? Of course, it’s going to
depend slightly on whether they are fish, if they have fins, or
feathers, or furs, or scales, because that does make a
difference as to what’s inside, how long it would take, because
mummification is in essence a desiccation process. So the first thing that happens
is they are eviscerated. Depending on– if
you’re a human, you get a nice little cute cut
here, but if you are an animal, you get a bigger cut
up your ventral side and/or your entrails
are removed. Now, humans tend
to be excerebrated, their brains are taken out. But most of our animals do not
need that because they’re not that big, and also
brains, when they putrefy, are not as explosively
awful as one’s viscera. So most of the animals
have those left in. The next thing is
desiccation with natron. Natron is a naturally
occurring salt, sort of a combination of salt
and baking soda that occurs in the [NON-ENGLISH],,
which is in the sort of– little bit west of Cairo
and slightly to the north. After one has eviscerated
and desiccated, for humans the sort of canonical
days are 40 days. But obviously it depends,
if you got a small mouse, you’re not going to
spend 40 days drying it. You can spend five days doing
it and it’ll be quite nice. Thank you very much. So that is– that varies. We also then, after
it’s been dried, what happens is that we have to
anoint it with oils and resins. And although there are no
ancient Egyptian texts that tell you how to
mummify, there are some things that talk about
what happens after it’s dried. The last 30 days of wrapping
and chanting of spells and putting in of amulets and
applying oils and onwards. So why after you dry something
would you rehydrate in essence by using oils and unguents? And it’s because
you’re too stiff. If you start wrapping
something like that, bits fall off and break off,
and then you’re stuffed, really. So a lot of the sacred oils
are to give them a little bit more flexibility, so that
when you actually wrap, you will find out that
it’s quite necessary. And also, this I’ve learned
through experimental work, which I’ll talk
about in a minute. But also, the resins are
generally yellowy, gold. And they give, when you
pour it over the body, they impart a golden hue. What happens once
you’re dead and when you are being transformed
into a mummy, which is a divine being
that lives eternally, is you’re going from
being a human to a god. The flesh of the
gods is made of gold, their hair is of lapis lazuli,
and their bones are of silver. This seems to be the
same for an animal, because this is why you will
see that so many– sometimes you get these cats with
their gilded faces, because it’s showing that
they have moved from being mere cat into divine cat. And after they’ve
been oiled and resined and people are chanting
prayers, so they’re building a metaphorical as
well as a physical defense around the body of the
animal, they are then– amulets are put in and so
then they can be consecrated and then they can be
buried, same as with humans. But of course, you get
variations with animals. By looking at embalming
places, we learn more about how things were made. This is for the Apis
bull or great bull. And these are probably
for the internal organs that were embalmed separately. For the application of goo,
the black material that, until you’ve done your
gas chromatography mass spectrometry,
we will call goo, because we don’t
know what it is. But this is the
application place in the site of Tuna el-Gebel. Now, sometimes we think we
know that some of the animals weren’t eviscerated at all. A lot of the birds seemed to
have just been dried in natron and then dipped in
a vat of boiling– well, maybe not boiling because
someone had to hold them in– oil and resins. Now, experimental
work has proven to be very, very
useful in elucidating how mummies were made. Please remember these were
all bought from the butcher, so they were
destined for the pot. But now, because
they were mummified, they will live forever
like any good Egyptian. So Flopsy was our control bunny. We didn’t do any
evisceration or anything and she just exploded and then–
because her viscera putrefied. Whereas Mopsy, you can
see was eviscerated and nicely dried out. We were very anxious because
this was the first desiccation. Thumpter, we made him
a nice little small cut and removed the
internal organs and put in very cute natron bags. Never put natron in state,
because what it does is it goes, [SLURP] and it
sucks out all the wet– anything liquid in your body. But of course, if
you’ve got a small cut and you want to remove it,
it’s very difficult and gooey, especially if you’re trying
to use ancient Egyptian tools. So this is why the ancient
Egyptians, we discovered, use these neat little baggies,
so that you can put them in and pull them out
and change them around and there is no reason
for any of your embalmers to stand at the edge of the
biology building throwing up. After dedication we could see– this is when we learned why
you had to put lots of oil on, but a right amount so that
it doesn’t over hydrate. And it also teaches us that
when you’ve got larger mammals, you really need to have
teams of people manipulating these things. And I mean, the idea of
eviscerating an Apis bull, you have to take
out these stomachs. And you need a lot of upper body
strength and a couple of people doing it, because the bull
probably ate before it died. So that’s another
interesting insight. Once everything is done, we have
given them full final rights and you can visit these
and make offerings. They like to have gin,
chocolate, and carrot in that order. So now let me show you
some of the animal mummies and what you can
learn from them. So pet mummies, sort
of self-explanatory, we all want our pets to be
with us in the afterlife to follow fulsomely, whether
it is a cat or a monkey. Here we have Hapimin
who is currently visitable in the University
of Pennsylvania Museum. He was dug up by
Petrie at Abydos. And he was found in his
coffin with a little bundle– that you cannot
really see very well. Sorry. On the side, which
actually was at his feet. And this turned out, when they
examined it, to be his pet dog. So the dog probably would
have slept at his feet, like you see with the knights. So the dog was
there and probably died pined after Hapimin
and was then hastily mummified and buried
at Hapimin’s feet, so they could be
together for eternity. Now, this is a
coffin from Asyut. And here we have
a man and his dog. Please note the back scratcher
was invented in ancient Egypt. And they’re both
named quite happily. Now, unfortunately
the coffin was robbed, so we don’t know if
he was at his feet. But I like to think that they
were both buried together, so they could have hang
out in the afterlife. Even horses, once they
were introduced to Egypt, have been buried
with great panoply. Here we have a nice– there’s a bit of the horse. And there is his coffin. And these are two
of my favorites. They were found in the Valley
of the Kings like this, but probably thieves put
them in this position, so that the dog– they rifled through the tomb. And there are several
tombs of animals in the Valley of the Kings. And this might have been a
hunting dog for King Amenhotep II or King Horemheb. And this might have
been a pet monkey. But the monkey’s
looking depressed and the dog’s saying, cheer
up, old chap, it can’t be that bad in the afterlife. Here we have a story
of great tragedy, drama, and reputations
that have been besmirched. Here is Maatkare. She was found in the
late 19th century. She was a high priestess. She was supposed
to be, according to the excavators at the
time, a virgin priestess, though I’m not quite sure
where they got that idea. But, oh my God, she
was buried with a baby. So speculation was
rife, publications went left, right, and center. She had died in childbirth. She was killed because she
had an illegitimate child. This, that, and the other. So for about a century, her
reputation was in tatters. Until the 1960s when there
was a project to x-ray the royal mummies
in the Cairo Museum. And in July, late in the
day, their team finally said, oh, we’re
done, but we have one last cartridge of film. And Nasri said, well, we
should do something with it. And they’re like,
we’ve done everything. He said, no, no, no. Let’s do the baby. That’s a rabbit monkey. So she had her pet
monkey buried with her. And for a long
time they all said really nasty things, which tells
you where their minds were. Anyway, we have
other monkey pets and some baboons that
you can see over here. Now, the second kind
of mummies we have are food mummies,
victual mummies, because the Egyptians believed
you can take it with you, and let us not be
hungry in the afterlife. The afterlife must
be a great time where you’re going to eat
and drink and be merry. So let’s snack. Tutankhamun had over
40 boxes of food. And we must remember
he was a growing boy. He was a 18 or 19-year-old. We have– and these
mummies, unlike pet mummies, which are pets complete, they
are prepared as if you would go to Shop and Stop, Ready to
Go, you can buy your roast– we have no chickens
in ancient Egypt, but goose or duck with the
heads cut off, eviscerated, wingtips, feet, all cut off,
mummified, perhaps even cooked, smeared with resins,
and then the– nowadays they don’t do this in
these stores, I’ve discovered. They don’t give you the giblets
back to make your gravy. But the ancient Egyptians
were not cheapskates, you have your giblets
inside, reintroduced into the body for your gravy. And then you put it into a nice
little coffinette and sent off. Here you can see
some of the giblets. Barbecued ribs, invented
in ancient Egypt. Interestingly, during
some of these tests we have found that– these were nicely scanning
electron microscopy as well as testing for the resins,
that sometimes quite expensive terebinth
resin imported from what is now Lebanon,
was used to make these. But it’s also interesting,
it’s a high status thing. You get it in human
mummies as well. But you also use it for cooking. So sometimes you use
these incenses as flavor. So was this because it
was just the incense also dew rises and disinfect
and inhibits bacteria? But it also might be part of
an ancient Egyptian recipe. Now, sacred animals are the ones
that are the most curious type. We have, from
Alexandria to Aswan, we have cemeteries from
about 700 BC to 200 AD in particular filled
with animals with one of them being sort
of the sacred animal and the other ones being votive. Now, the sacred
animal is the idea– because all gods
had an animal that was associated with him or her. So the goddess Sekhmet in charge
of plagues had the lioness. God Horus we have with his– actually it’s a super hawk. It’s made up– a
super raptor made up of lots of different ones. But the idea was
that a living animal, recognizable by
certain markings, was there on earth and
the spirit of the god entered into the
body of that animal. During that animal’s lifetime
he would live as a god, be prayed to, give oracles,
do all kinds of things. And then upon his death,
the spirit of the god would enter and migrate into
the body of a similarly marked animal, which the
priest would recognize and the original god would
be mummified with great pomp and circumstance and then be
buried in an elaborate tomb and catacomb in one of
these places in the temple. It’s basically the same idea of
the Dalai Lama, the migrating soul. Invented in ancient Egypt. Just saying. Some of the most common
things are bull cults. And those are the ones
that are most famous. We have major ones starting
from the first dynasty, about 3,000 BC up in
the area of Saqqara and continuing on into
the 5th century AD. This is the Serapeum at
Saqqara, which gives you a sense of these vast
catacombs, which contained also votive stele, but also massive
sarcophagus that was supposed to contain the bodies
of the sacred bulls, except only one was found with
anything resembling a bull burial. However, the Smithsonian
Museum in Washington DC, you can actually see one of
two complete bull mummies. And really these are the
only two in the world. Coming from Saqqara,
purchased by Henry Abbott in the 19th century. So we try to x-ray it. You can see that the success
level was kind of low, but they’re very quite
beautiful things. Now, we have another kind of
mummy in another place, it’s Buchis bull. And where– not just the
bull, but the bull’s family was also revered. So the mother of
Buchis, you can see looking a little bit messed
up, but originally would have looked– this is after unwrapping a bit. They would have probably– the
excavators reconstructed them as looking like this. Oh, here. Looking rather grand. So they were
wondering, because they seem to be a little
in a collapsed state, and also what was queer about
this particular site was they found a lot of these things
that looked like oil cans. The excavators Mond and
Myers thought, OK, nice, you know, whatever,
took some of the bulls, took some of the
bits and pieces, took some of the bead
net adorning the mummies, and took a number
of the oil cans, inexplicable oil cans, back
to England and put them on display. Now, one of them had a friend
who was a veterinarian. And the vet came and said,
oh, I know what that is. It’s an enema. I use it for large mammals. Now, our friend Herodotus, who
lived in the 5th century BC, actually records different
types of mummification and he had said the
ancient Egyptians used enemas of cedar oil. And a lot of people had
said, [EXCLAMATION].. People said [EXCLAMATION]
a lot to Herodotus. And I think they’re all
wrong, because he was probably more right than wrong. So basically, then after
this came to light, everyone said, well,
they must have done this and there was more
speculation and this was done in the late ’30s. So until about– there
was speculation continuing until the 2000 or 1998. When we decided to try
making a cedar oil enema and using it on a
Peter Cottontail– so we gave him– we have found some places
that there seem to be some– a princess of the
Middle Kingdom, and also some late period mummies, and
Greco-Roman mummies that seem to have been made this way. So we put– using a pipette,
obviously, not this– for the mummy. And all you do is you
pour it in using an enema, plug it up, put it in
natron, and leave it. It’s really one of the
least messy things, except right at the end where
you have to unplug the end and then you press down. But do not stand behind because
everything squirts out and is a bit stinky. As one of my eight-year-old
friends said, oh, that’s germ warfare. So the heart, interestingly,
is always left in the body, but during this process it gets
dislodged and moves around. But it is one of the
strongest muscles. Everything else melts. And the heart remains. So this proved that this
was an effective way of creating a mummy. Now, we have sacred animals. We have– it’s harder
to identify them because a lot of them might
have been robbed in antiquity. But we have a few. This is a ram sacred to the god
of Num found at Elephantine. And what is interesting
is that, you can see, very, very old, teeth are
all worn down, quite nice, there are lots of amulets in. But what some of these showed– we’ve x-rayed about 10 of them. That is all that survived. It’s a long story. But some of them
don’t have horns. We can’t tell. With a few the horns have
actually been cut off and maybe were used to make the
headdresses of priests, as well as royalty. But some of them don’t
seem to have horns at all where they should. You don’t like that idea. Yeah. But they could have been sheep. And maybe this is
actually a family, again, like you get the mothers of Apis
and the mothers of so-and-so. We have had some wonderful
crocodiles, which are quite large, over 18 feet. And this one– when
I was cleaning, I thought, what
is wrong with you? Why have we not
cleaned this properly? There’s all this
stuff in your mouth. There’s sticks. And I pull them out and
they were baby crocs, because crocodiles often,
to keep their babies safe, initially open their
mouth and all the babies come in obediently and they
take them safely to the water, then they swim around
and are transported back. And then when they
get to be bigger, they do everything
on mama’s back. So we have a few
of those as well, which is quite interesting,
especially since they are all supposed to be male crocodiles. Right now I’m trying to do
something at the Peabody in Yale, where we have
a crocodile with babies to see if we can genetically
find any linkage between them. Now, the largest number of
animal mummies that we have are votive offerings. And these are basically
like lighting a light candle in a church, except a candle,
you light it, it’s gone. The Egyptians were long term. None of this momentary rubbish. So what they did
was that they took– sometimes they
would give a steely, sometimes they would give
a statue as an offering. But they thought that
an actual life animal, who was of the same
image as the god, and if you give it as a
sacrifice, blood sacrifice, then it is worth much more
and carries more weight with the god. So if you want to get
something out of the deity, you give this kind of offering. And from about 600
BC to 300 AD ish, we have a huge concentration
of this type of animal mummy, where they were
being purchased by pilgrims, dedicated at a temple, and then
being consecrated for a while, kept in a room, and at festivals
that happened twice or thrice a year, they were taken
from this temple room and interred in large, complex
catacombs, which were then sealed up until the next event. All kinds of animals were
mummified during this time, whether they were scarab
beetles, whether they were ibises, catfish, kestrels,
crocodiles, dogs, cats, sheep, you name it. Now, there are several in
this room here in Cairo and there are collections
in Lyon as well as in a couple of other places. One of the largest sites for
the sacred animal necropoli is in Saqqara. It’s very much like what
you would see if you go to– this has Fatima in Portugal, or
Lourdes, or places like that, because even now pilgrims
are buying votive offerings and giving them. So this is something that is
very much part of human desire and wish fulfillment. It goes back to 3000 BC. It shows you we haven’t
changed one whit. I like this one very
much because this is a human sized
ibis, which is filled with lots of ibis mummies. Unfortunately it doesn’t
have a provenance. The ibises– here we go. At the site of Abydos we
have a huge number of these. This is a construction
that dates to about 2800, 2900 BC loosely, whatever. But later on a sand
dune filled it up. And in about 600
BC, people started to use the sand dune
to stuff in ibis pots. So it’s chockablock with ibises. Here you go. Here you can see some
peeking out, falling out. But not just ibises,
we have dogs as well, which I was delighted by. So you pull out– there’s a bit
of mud, there’s a bit of stuff. And this is Handsome Herman,
who is most delightful, because he actually– his
beak was filled with shells, so that he could eat these
shells in the afterlife. Now, these ibises are
associated with the god Thoth partially because their
beak represents a pen. And they also walk around like
that, searching in the mud, like Thoth searching for wisdom. But also, they eat snails. And some of the
snails that they eat carry bilharzia, which
is schistosomiasis. Did the ancient Egyptians
know that these animals were actually helping kill
the carrier schistosomiasis? And is that why they
were extra happy, because Thoth was
also associated with being the god of medicine? We don’t know, but it’s a
nice something to play with. Here is Handsome Herman. And you can see some of
the shells in his beak. Subsequently, we found
some other shell ibises that we have x-rayed and they
have also been fed, as it were. Another group is working
on the DNA of ibises that have been mummified to see,
were they being specially bred? And so you will get
the same sort of DNA repeating from a population. Or were they wild captures? And then you will get
a greater diversity. Cats, very popular. Now, you would think that,
it’s going to the gods. They didn’t always
die naturally. Some of them were killed. Cats have been
strangled, some of them have had their heads put
in, some of the puppies were taken away from
their mother very early. They might have been drowned. They might have not been fed,
because we’ve got all ages and ranges for these animals. This one– this break over
here is a later break, but you can see that they did
try and personify, as it were– excuse me– their
animals and give them the same kind of
burial equipment that a human being would have
down to masks and coffins. In fact, cats have been used
recently– well, actually quite earlier by Leslie Lyons to look
at cat domestication, which previously was thought
to be coming from Cyprus. And then they proved
that it was not. It was coming from Egypt. And more recently, this year,
there’s been yet another study using cat mummies to
do DNA that further reinforces the antiquity
of the cat in Egypt. So you can see how
these animals– mummies are being
used to really change the way we look at the
natural world around us. Now, this one’s lovely. You can see beautiful
little raptor. Very fine head. But if you look at
the x-ray, there is no head, because
sometimes bits are missing, and sometimes you only get
bits, because maybe the part symbolizes a whole. And if you didn’t
at a particular time have a lot of the whole,
you split up a part. Or of course, maybe it goes
back to the archive of whole when people were being cheated. This is a very
nice kestrel we had in South Africa, coming
from Egypt, of course, but in the South
African collection. And we pared it down. And we found– oh
my gosh, there’s a bunch of stuff in
its stomach, so it wasn’t properly eviscerated,
but we found eviscerated guts. But there is a tail of
a mouse, so it choked. So generally these
birds go, [SOUND],, and they get rid of their
little balls of whatever. But this one was not
allowed to because it had old food in its belly. So either it was sick
or it had been force fed and it had no choice. And then it just went, [SOUND]. And you can see that
we’ve got bits of– probably a sparrow, bits of
mice, lots of bits of mice, and fur as well. Sometimes things are
not too neatly buried. You’ll get this mound and you
can see here there’s a bit of– the interspersed here are
birds as well as shrews. The shrew is–
this is this big– in its Sunday best here. Nocturnal version
of the Sun god, he who can see well at night. Often you find
them with raptors, diurnal version of the Sun god. This is a bundle of shrews. I got up to 21 and
then lost count. Neil Woodman from the
Smithsonian is working– we’re working together
to try and do more shrew identification because they’re
one or two species that have– are extinct, but we want
to track down and see, where they here
in ancient times? When did they sort of
stop being in Egypt? These are very nice
shrews from the two– these ones are from Abydos. And here they are reflecting
their solar nature by being gilded. Recently we have been looking
at the Tomb of the Dogs, or the Dog Catacomb
in Saqqara where we have estimated–
unfortunately, yes, we are standing on dogs. But there was no other way
because they’re piled a meter– 80 or 70 high. And a lot of them have,
because of the humidity, just the bandages
have turned to powder. And we have done
sampling and we estimated that this Catacomb, when full,
contained 8 million dogs. Million. 8 million. So there was a huge industry. Now, this has been very helpful
for veterinary practices, sometimes the absence there of. And I will go back
to that in a minute. Sometimes you think– oh,
very definite tail here, head here, x-ray. Sorry. It’s not showing
up so well here, which is head where
the tail should be. And there’s another
head as well. So people weren’t
paying much attention and sometimes put
two things together. This one, with a very nice
image of an ibis on the outside, inside contained sand
and a couple of feathers. The other thing is
also, of course, when you’re making a god, if any
bits fall off, they’re sacred, so you can’t toss
them in the bin, so you must wrap them up and
give them as an offering. Here’s another
beautifully wrapped thing. Now, remember what your mother
might have told some of you, never judge a book by its cover. Generally with an animal
mummy, 90% of the time, the prettier it is outside,
the more suspicious you should be inside. Now, this one has a
bit of an egg in there. But I mean, it is incredible how
many mummies have been created. We have 8 million dogs. We have ibises in Saqqara that
are less, but probably not that much less if we start
calculating properly. Cat and Bubastis, which
I just made a stab at. So this was really big business. It wasn’t– so you
have people coming– you have– cutting
the catacombs, you need teams of workmen taking
the dirt away, teams of workmen creating the pots, teams
of workmen breeding the animals, priests, or
maybe even cottage industries so that people have a
better economic life and can be connected
in with the temple and have a sense of attachment
and loyalty to the temple. And especially in
this later period, the kings weren’t giving
as much in terms of funding to religious institutions. So they were out on their own. So maybe this is part of
their marketing strategy to try and get, A,
loyalty, and, B, also make sure things were
ticking over and, in fact, being quite good. You also have to get bandage– old bandages, linens,
but going around houses and collecting them from people. And then the last bits
are always nicely done. So you must have
extra special people who are doing these patterns. And we’ve got some
of our conservators practicing how to
make these patterns. Because you wrap up the
mummy, doesn’t look so good, put some string on to keep
the bandages in place, but then you put a
nicely constructed shroud and sow it in place so
it looks very fancy. So you can see
the materials that are used for mummification,
the resins, all of these things are also, not just
representative of a huge religious
system, but also are a part of an enormous
economic construct that really played a major
role in the Egyptian economy and life in the late period. So you can see, and also, of
course, you have the pilgrims, where you’re going to
have inns for them, you’re going to have
drinking holes for them, you’re going to sell
them church keys, they’re probably going
to go off and have a nice time with people of ill
repute and be of ill repute themselves. But, again, the kind of industry
that surrounds it is enormous. There you go. Think of those
hotels that they were having in the ancient world. So any place that
had an animal cult and could get a
good festival going was guaranteed to
make sure that they got some funds for the
temple, popularity, and had a place on the map. So really, by studying
animal mummies, we are not just studying that
one animal or that one mummy. But really this is a
window into the whole of ancient Egyptian life,
religion, and culture. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE]

5 thoughts on “Divine Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt

  • Ancient History Criticisms Post author

    A rather cursory explanation of the Serapeum by Salima Ikram. Only two Bull mummies exist in the world? Was the one even found inside a box in the Serapeum? Why do all the boxes have faceted lids except for one, which has a lid with square ends and an arching center? It appears to be larger than all the others. It is also not on display with the others. For proof of this box's existence, I would encourage everyone to go watch UnchartedX's recent trailer for his up-coming video on the subject.

    Also where are the bird mummies? Why no mention of the tomb of the birds and the strange cave discovered by Andrew and Sue Collins?

  • Archangelm127 Post author

    Thank you for making these lectures available for free. I intend to become a museum member when my financial situation permits. 🙂

  • MGTOW WARRIOR Post author

    next video, i think have a interesting subject, but this women, god damn if no one watch you videos then because they lame, this chicks are simple bad in presenting it – hire some men – is this so complicated

    the rhythm and style , lets say no style – come on – you have to get tax money, no one would have a chance with such a bad performance

  • Eugenia Pristouris Post author

    Thank you, Prof. Ikram. Amazing presentation!

  • barbara simoncini Post author

    Thank you, you've been amazig.

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