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Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt

September 29, 2017–January 21, 2018

Baboon Appliqué from an Animal Mummy. Possibly from Saqqara, Egypt. Ptolemaic Period, 305–30 B.C.E. Linen, 51/2 x 23/8 in. (14.2 x 5.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum; Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.272E. (Photo: Gavin Ashworth, Brooklyn Museum)

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Why is this cat coffin so small?
This coffin likely only contained a partial cat mummy, parts that symbolically represented the whole.
Cats were one of the types of animals that were both beloved pets and sacred to the gods. They symbolized both domestic, maternal qualities and could stand in for the powerful lion. Cats were also venerated for their ability to see in the dark and catch vermin that threatened the home.
What kind of wood is this?
Great question. I don't have the wood type identified in my notes, but my guess would be cedar. Wood was a luxury project in ancient Egypt as it had to be imported. Cedar would have come from Lebanon.
Any idea as to type of dog?
We don't actually have genetic information on these two dog mummies but because of their size they are likely desert dogs of some kind. Like most images of dogs in ancient Egypt, they were likely associated with the god Anubis or Wepwawet
No X-ray either? Perhaps they were puppies.
No, none on view unfortunately. They did do C-14 dating on the linen wrapping but the animal remains may have been too fragile or deteriorated to take a sample.
Yes, puppies are most definitely an option as well. We have evidence of ancient Egyptians mummifying kittens, juvenile crocodiles, and young ibises as well.
Thanks for your feedback.
Which god is this?
The animal at the top of that stela is a ram-headed lion who is referred to as “Amun-Re, Lord of the thrones of the Two Lands [Egypt] who is in front of Amara West.” The priest, Hori is kneeling before him.
The ram was seen as a symbol of virility very early on in Egyptian history. The lion was also seen as representing strength and kingship. Those characteristics are being embodied by Amun-Re when he is shown in this composite form.
This stela was donated by a man named Hori to the god Amun-Re.
Do the animal mummies turn into gods?
The ancient Egyptians believed that they did! They believed that the animal's soul would become a god and join the other gods when they were mummified.
They also believed that they could send messages to the gods along with the souls of the animals. That's why they mummified so many!
What deity were dog mummies associated with?
Dog mummies were associated with the jackal headed god and inventor of embalming, Anubis. They were also associated with Wepwawet among members of certain cults. Wepwawet was believed to be protector and guide to the deceased.
Sometimes jackal-shaped Anubis statues were even put on top of a coffin or sarcophagus to guard the mummy.
What is a cynocephalus baboon?
It's a type of baboon found in Africa. Cynocephalus refers to the shape of the baboon's head, which appears like a dog's head.
The baboon species P. cynocephalus was actually not native to Egypt, but found farther south, further up the Nile, so they were imported! However, cynocephalus baboons are widely found in ancient Egyptian iconography, sacred to the god Thoth and messengers to the gods.
My friend wants to know why they mummified in the first place? What purpose does it serve?
Preservation of the body was important in particular because your soul needed a place to come back and rest. A mummified body would serve that function. The first mummification, according to the religion, was that of the god Osiris, who generally appears in clothes and poses that are described as "mummiform," meaning he looks like a mummy.
Come back to this world or the world of the afterlife?
It's not that they believed the body would re-animate, but that the body served as a place for the soul to take a nap. The ancient Egyptians believed that the kingdom of afterlife existed far to the west.