Egypt has always been known for being home to the majestic pyramids and and huge limestone statues. More alluring than the monuments are the contents they house and mummified bodies of the pharaohs that passed. But it would seem that ancient Egyptians not only mummified humans but also various kinds of cats and dogs. A few of the surviving specimens of these animal mummies will be displayed at the Bowers Museum in California.
Cats and dogs in today’s culture are seen as pets and often even members of the family. Ancient Egyptians, on the other hand, viewed them in a completely different light. Tens of millions of the animals were mummified, with some of them placed in the tombs of the pharaohs themselves. Others were given their own tombs carved with as much elaborate details as those of the royal family members.
Each and every detail of the animal is clearly defined through the mummy. Even the minute aspects are prominent and visible. One mummy of a dog is detailed to such an extent that even its floppy ears are clearly visible. A cat was laid in such a manner that it closely resembled a human’s funeral pose.
Edward Bleiberg, the curator of the exhibition, said the way these animals are mummified shows to what extent ancient Egyptians considered animals to be similar to human beings. The Egyptians must have even believed that animals, too, had souls. The animal mummies displayed in the Bowers Museum might even give a better insight into the world that is ancient Egypt.
Animals back then had different roles to play in society. For starters, most people other than kings or queens could not even afford to keep a dog or cat as just a pet. Hence animals in a way represented wealth and luxury. Surprisingly most animals back then were even charged with the responsibility of carrying messages to the gods they represented.
A dog was considered the messenger to the god Anubis. The ibis on the other hand was related to the god Thoth. This theory is supported by the fact that most of the animal mummies had some sort of message carved on them. Bleiberg recalled of one such letter by a man who wished to resolve a turmoil with his co worker and so through the animal asked the god Thoth for help.
Preparing detailed animal mummies is considered to be as difficult as creating a human one. Animals just like humans had to be cut open and their insides had to be preserved. Creating the mummies was expensive and detailed work as a person skilled in the trade earned twice the average in that era.
Bleiberg added that while people would most definitely visit for the fascinating specimens, they should hopefully get more out of it than just a good show. He compared the person having work related problems to that of problems people in the modern era face. It in a way shows that even though the world now is centuries and civilizations apart from the world back then, people still face the same problem now as they did then. The display of these animal mummies at the museum might even in a way reveal that humans, in some basic way, have not changed at all.
By Hammad Ali