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Evidence of diet, deification, and death within ancient Egyptian mummified animals

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posted on 2021-04-14, 11:10 authored by Richard Johnston, Richard Thomas, Rhys Jones, Carolyn Graves-Brown, Wendy Goodridge, Laura North
The clues to life and death of mummified animals can remain hidden beneath their wrappings. Developments in non-invasive imaging have enabled detailed study of their internal structures. Laboratory-based X-ray microcomputed tomography (microCT) and focussed imaging protocols permit smaller mummified remains, such as animals, to be studied at higher resolution. In this study, we use microCT to image three different animal mummies. Revealing the internal structures provides insights into their biography, the conditions in which they were kept, complex mummification practices, possible causes of death, and subsequent handling damage. Thousands of years after the production of these mummified animals, the X-ray microCT technique facilitates new investigations, revealing ‘harder’ skeletal structures, mummification materials, and even desiccated soft tissues. Potential evidence for an ‘opening of the mouth’ procedure was found in a snake, along with indicators of the poor conditions in which the snake was kept when alive, leading to dehydration. Examination of a cat mummy revealed it was less than five months old and had its neck purposefully broken. It was also possible to identify a bird mummy to species level from the X-ray data. Improved understanding of animal mummification through scientific imaging can thus inform conservation and understanding of past human-animal relationships.

Funding

The work was supported by the Advanced Imaging of Materials (AIM) facility (EPSRC Grant No. EP/M028267/1), the Welsh Government Enhancing Competitiveness Grant (MA/KW/5554/19), the European Social Fund (ESF) through the European Union’s Convergence programme administered by the Welsh Government.

History

Citation

Johnston, R., Thomas, R., Jones, R. et al. Evidence of diet, deification, and death within ancient Egyptian mummified animals. Sci Rep 10, 14113 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-69726-0

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  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Scientific Reports

Volume

10

Issue

1

Pagination

14113

Publisher

Nature Research

eissn

2045-2322

Acceptance date

2020-07-15

Copyright date

2020

Available date

2021-04-14

Language

en

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