Mummy Can Has Lunch?

By: The Scribe on Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It’s no secret that the Ancient Egyptians knew a thing or two about food—along with precious jewels, gold, and statues, they often left plenty of food behind when burying their dead. But it wasn’t all ritual offerings… in fact, the Egyptians had special concern for the animals they mummified along with people.

Image: Andrew Wade/Yale Peabody Museum of Natural HistoryHow so? Well, believing that the afterlife would require the same kinds of provisions as needed in life, they packed a delicious lunch for their animals. Or, specifically in this case, for sacrificed sacred ibis birds.

Millions of ibis mummies have been found at shrines across Egypt, where they were sacrificed to the god Thoth who represented wisdom and writing. It was only recently that PhD candidate Andrew Wade (University of Western Ontario) and colleagues used a CT scanner to look inside an ibis mummy to discover what’s inside.

It’s known that the Ancient Egyptians removed and preserved the organs not only of humans, but also of the creatures they buried—but what wasn’t previously known was that they were so concerned about the afterlife that they actually packed food into the stomachs of the sacrificed ibis birds, likely to ensure they’d thrive on “the other side.”

Wade has commented that “the ibis mummies suggest Egyptians believed that birds also travelled to the afterlife. It suggests the provision of an afterlife food source to the bird, and lends support to the idea that the viscera of ibises and humans alike were meant to continue their living function within the afterlife."

It must have been nice to know that even in death, you’d never go hungry!

Reference: Journal of Archaeological Science, DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2012.01.003


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