Dead humans weren’t the only thing ancient Egyptians mummified, they also mummified millions of animals. An estimated 70 million animals were buried in mummified form beneath the catacombs in almost over 30 sites across Egypt.
The latest in medical imaging technology is being utilized at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital by a team of Egyptologists and radiographers from the Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, Manchester Hospital, to scan hundreds of animal mummies retrieved in the 19th and 20th centuries, in what is dubbed as the biggest analysis of its kind in history.
In Autumn 2014, about a dozen of these scans were filmed by Horizon which were made the pillar of a documentary that depicts the stories of the peculiar role animals have played in ancient Egyptian belief.
Dr Lidija McKnight, Manchester team leader of Radiographers and Egyptologists, used CT Scanner and X-ray machine, normally used on children, to examine what lies beneath the wraps to avoid damaging the antique specimens within.
A variety of different animal mummies which includes wading birds to falcons, cats, shrews and a five foot long Nile crocodile were scanned by the team.
The team also surprisingly discovered that a crocodile shaped mummy contained eight baby crocs carefully wrapped together.
Undertaking the scan of these ancient animals prove to be not an easy task as each mummy needs to be delicately handled and the filming was interrupted a number of times because human patients needed the use of the scanner.
But the highlight was the final scan when the team scanned the mummy shaped like a cat, complete with tiny ears and a nose. The scans revealed what had remained obscure thousands of years ago and only a few pieces of cat bone were found to be inside the wrappings.
Lidija said almost 1/3 of the animal mummies she scanned contained only partial remains or even appeared to be completely empty.
The reason behind this strange Egyptian custom is rigorously debated. Some experts believe animal mummies were created to be sold to Egyptian pilgrims and so the embalmers of ancient times could make more gain by selling “fake” mummies. Lidija and some other experts believe it is evident that the ancient embalmers considered the smallest animal parts to be sacred enough to warrant just as much effort to mummify them precisely.