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Gallery 19: Case 18

Animals and animal burials

Animals clearly had an important place in Egyptian life at all periods, as divine beings, pets and livestock. Animal images appear very early in Egyptian material culture.

Many animals were believed to be living representatives of particular gods. The crocodile, for example, represented the god Sobek at temples such as Kom Ombo. The Sobek crocodile was fed special cakes and adorned with gold necklaces. When it died it was elaborately mummified.

Visitors to temples often dedicated images of the divine animals, such as bronze and terracotta figurines; the clay figures were also taken away as souvenirs. Some animals were reared in order to be mummified and buried in special tombs (catacombs) that could be visited by the general public. Animal cults were especially popular from the Late Period to the Roman period (380 BC-AD 200).

Excavations, texts and modern investigative methods have shown that many mummies are not of a single, complete animal, and some contain no animal bones at all. The 'crocodile' mummy shown here, for example, though ancient, contains only broken pottery and stones.

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