Understanding the news: More cat mummies - this time from the OldKingdom

Understanding the news: More cat mummies - this time from the Old Kingdom
Perhaps the real story here should be about the usual glaring errors in stories about ancient Egypt that, along with pseudoscience add to the confusion of the average person trying to understand this complex and wonderful topic. I shall try to untangle the most significant errors in this brief post.

One of the most glaring errors is, as usual, the dating. Many sources are reporting that the mummies are from 6,000 years ago. This is an error. The mummies are dated to the 5th Dynasty, during the Old Kingdom which is around 2686-2160 BCE[1]. The 5th Dynasty falls in the latter part of the Old Kingdom so this makes the mummies around 4,000 years old.

The cat mummies found at Saqqara are much older than the much later usual Ptolemaic necropolis ones found in huge numbers - their appearance is quite different and highlights the fact that mummification as a process developed over a long period of time. It should be remembered that these animals are not pets but offerings.

Also found were large scarab beetles in their own coffins, and while the wording of some articles suggests they were 'mummified' this has not been tested and is probably not the case. Because insects have an exoskeleton they do tend to 'self' preserve somewhat better than their counterparts who do not. Mummification involves removing internal organs and drying a corpse in order to preserve it.

I've had a bit of difficulty (as usual) finding reports that are factually accurate for this story, so my linked article for this week is actually a series of photos from the dig. Click to browse through them.

[1] Shaw, I (Ed) (2000) Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford: Oxford University Press p.480


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