Drawing a blank on Egypt's animal mummies: a third of mummified cats, birds and crocodiles contain no animal material

One third of the mummies scanned contained nothing at all

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The Independent Online

Around a third of Ancient Egyptian animal mummies do not contain any animal material at all, according to a new research project hosted by Manchester Museum.

Using X-rays and CT scanners, researchers from Manchester University have analysed more than 800 mummies, including cats, birds and crocodiles, in what is the largest scanning project of its kind.

One third of the scans scanned showed details of complete animals, which were well preserved inside the traditional decorative wrappings.

However, another third detailed only partial remains inside; the final third of mummies scanned contained nothing at all.

Dr Lidija McKnight, an Egyptologist from the University of Manchester, told the BBC: “There have been some surprises. We always knew that not all animal mummies contained what we expected them to contain, but we found around a third don’t contain any animal material at all.”

Experts believe as many as 70 million animals may have been mummified by the Egyptians in according with their religious beliefs, with animals being bred for the sole purpose of mummification.

Considering the scans, experts say it is likely manufacturers struggled to keep up with the demand, leading them to preserve only partial remains of the animals and pad out the linen with other items such as eggshells and feathers.

According to Dr McKnight, these items were still precious to the Egyptians because of their proximity to the  animals and the results were not likely to be part of an ancient confidence trick.

“We shouldn’t view animal mummification through our modern, subjective standpoint of fakery and everything being some kind of con,” said Dr McKnight.