According to recent studies, thousands and thousands of remains of mummified birds, from predators to ibises, have been found in burials from the times of Ancient Egypt. But where did the Egyptian priests get such an abundance of animals for mummification?
Where did the millions of bird mummies come from in Egyptian tombs?
The ancient Egyptians buried mummified birds as offerings to gods, including Horus, Ra, or Thoth. The number of sacrificial birds of prey and ibises buried with Egyptian mummies is in the millions. But until now it was not clear if the birds were bred for this specific purpose (like cats) or caught in the wild.
A new study of the chemical composition of mummies strongly suggests that they were wild and untamed and lived in their natural environment before they were buried.
The question arises: how did the ancient Egyptians catch all these birds?
Fortunately, the animal’s dietary habits have helped uncover their mysterious origins – the isotopic composition of feathers, bones, and embalming strips taken from 20 ibises and other bird mummies from the Fusion Museum in Lyon revealed a plentiful and varied diet. In other words, this is not a diet that birds would receive in captivity.
The researchers compared the mixture of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, calcium, barium and strontium in the samples with the remains of human mummies from the same period, whose composition was much less exotic.
This suggests that birds of prey migrated regularly from the Nile Valley, while the ibises probably lived there all year round and fed even better than the Egyptians, who mummified them.
Death was the subject of a real cult in Ancient Egypt, like mummified animals. Most of the gods of the Egyptians took the form of animals, and cats and birds were considered incarnations of deities here on Earth.
Human beings were preserved as mummies to enter the afterlife, and animals were placed next to them in the same style for several reasons – as offerings to the gods, as food for the dead, and as a way to reunite loved pets with those who had already passed away. the limits of death.
Based on the results of archaeological excavations, scientists believe that the animals were buried in tens of millions. In the case of birds, remains have been found at all stages of life, leading to the idea that they were somehow raised and bred in captivity. This practice is also mentioned in some texts from that time.
On the other hand, there is also evidence in ancient Egyptian paintings of how sacrificial birds are caught in the wild. A 2019 DNA study of the mummified birds showed that they were migratory birds that may have been tamed for a short time. The new study adds weight to the second hypothesis that the birds were still largely wild. Interestingly, this approach also assumes that the Egyptians had to have a vast network of hunters and hunters who would have caught millions of birds of prey and ibises – and this is not an easy task.