Wrapped in linen and reverently laid to rest, animal mummies hold intriguing clues to life and death in ancient Egypt. National Geographic documented the pets of the Pharaohs recently, with tons of pictures, an interactive map of graves, and the story behind the bandages.
Lovingly preserved, a hunting dog whose bandages fell off long ago likely belonged to a pharaoh. As a royal pet, it "would have been fed nibbly bits and spoiled rotten," says Egyptologist Salima Ikram. When it died, it was interred in a specially prepared tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
The innermost secrets of mummies at the Egyptian Museum have emerged in a recent study. A wooden, cat-shaped coffin (at right), plastered and whitewashed to imitate limestone, stands about 14.5 inches tall, dwarfing the kitten inside. Spiral wrappings and a painted mask conceal a grown cat (at left)—one of countless thousands buried as votive offerings in the sands of Istabl Antar.
Meat mummies on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo were prepared as a royal picnic for the afterlife. Ducks, legs of beef, ribs, roasts, and even an oxtail for soup were all dried in natron, bound in linen, and packed in a reed basket for burial in a queen's tomb.
Pampered in a temple during its lifetime, a sacred baboon was enshrined after death in the Tuna el-Gebel catacombs. Priests prayed and made offerings to it there as signs of their abiding reverence.
A queen's pet gazelle was readied for eternity with the same lavish care as a member of the royal family. In fine, blue-trimmed bandages and a custom-made wooden coffin, it accompanied its owner to the grave in about 945 B.C.
Buried with a dog, a baboon harbors a secret that helps identify it as a pet: An x-ray revealed missing canine teeth, probably removed to keep the creature from nipping royal fingers.
For even more photographs, see the full gallery at NationalGeographic.com.
Wrapped in linen and reverently laid to rest, animal mummies hold intriguing clues to life and death in ancient Egypt.