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Cats, Crocodiles, Cattle, and More: Initial Steps Toward Establishing a Chronology of Ancient Egyptian Animal Mummies

  • Pascale Richardin (a1), Stéphanie Porcier (a2), Salima Ikram (a3), Gaëtan Louarn (a1) (a4) and Didier Berthet (a5)...

The ancient Egyptians mummified animals as part of cultic activity from the Late Period into the Roman era (7th century BC to the 4th century AD). Necropolises have provided millions of animal mummies, reflecting the religious fervor of Egyptians with regard to sacred animal cults during this period. Despite the number of sites containing mummies, and the number of mummies themselves, surprisingly little is known with regard to the nuances in the dating of the cults’ popularity and activities. As part of a multidisciplinary project, we have conducted a series of radiocarbon dates based on a group of animal mummies from the collection of the Musée des Confluences in Lyon, France. Thus, 63 specimens of animal mummies and their wrappings were analyzed to provide a range of dates for this practice. Results show that some correlations can be made between the popularity of particular species and the time period in which they were mummified. Monkeys and goats appear to have been among the first mummified species (from 800 BC), while antelopes appear to be a later addition to the corpus (30 BC to 4th century AD), thereby reflecting changes in thought processes, religious beliefs, and economic imperatives over time.

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Selected Papers from the 2015 Radiocarbon Conference, Dakar, Senegal, 16–20 November 2015

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