jueves, 7 de agosto de 2014

X-ray of a cat born to be a mummy

(Image: G. Gnudi and team)
Cats held a special place in ancient Egyptian culture. They appear frequently in its iconography, most famously providing the body of the Great Sphinx in Giza and deified as the cat goddess Bastet.
Ancient Egyptians are also famed for mummies, so it is not surprising that they mummified their favourite animals to provide company, currency or protection for the dead. Preserved peregrine falcons, baboons, crocodiles and gazelles have all been discovered in tombs.
At 2000 years old, this mummified cat lived relatively late in ancient Egyptian history. By this time, cats were reared and killed near temples specifically for mummification. This X-ray, made by Giacomo Gnudi and a team at the National Museum and University of Parma, Italy, shows the cat was just four to five months old at death, and when dead was bound in an exaggerated, compressed upright sitting position similar to that in contemporaneous hieroglyphics.
"The fact that the cat was young suggests that it was one of those bred specifically for mummification," said Gnudi. The X-ray also shows a hole at the base of the cat's skull that may have been made in a sacrificial ceremony for Bastet or to drain the skull's contents.
It is not know exactly where the mummy was found, because it was bought from an antiquarian in the 18th century for the National Museum of Parma. Not only was it part of a roaring trade when it was initially mummified, but animal mummy remains were so common that in the 19th century they were shipped in bulk to Liverpool, UK, to be used as fertiliser. Luckily this specimen escaped to tell us its secrets of its own sacrificial fate.

 Caroline Morley, online picture researcher
april 2012

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