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Monday, May 16, 2016

Brooklyn Museum
Brooklyn Museum wrote:
While most people probably know that the Ancient Egyptians...
Cat Mummy in Cartonnage, ca. 760-390 B.C.E. Cartonnage, animal remains, linen, paint, 9 1/2 x 6 x 35 in. (24.1 x 15.2 x 88.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1991

Snake coffin with mummy, 37.1358Ea-c

Crocodile mummy, 37.1365E

Ibis-form snake mummy, X1183.2

While most people probably know that the Ancient Egyptians mummified their dead, it is perhaps less widely known that the Egyptians mummified animals as well. Animals were mummified for a number of different reasons. The most beloved pets were embalmed and buried next to their owners, mummified parts of animals were included in tombs as food offerings for the spirit, and so-called “votive” animal mummies—meant as offerings to the gods—were bred, mummified and buried in temple contexts in great numbers during the later periods of Egyptian history.

There are over 60 mummified animals in Brooklyn Museum’s collection, and in preparation for an out-going loan in 2013 the majority of them were X-Rayed and CT-scanned. Our goal was to learn as much as we could about these specimens, to assess their condition, to identify the species present and to see if the form of the wrapping corresponded with the animal inside. The initial investigation revealed just how many ‘animal mummies’ actually contained only parts of an animal, or seemingly no animal at all. Some contents which appeared to be just dirt from the X-rays eventually turned out to contain parts like feathers that showed up clearly on CT scans. Oftentimes the most beautifully wrapped animal mummies were the ones that had the fewest animal remains within.

CT-scan slice showing bundle of feathers of an Ibis mummy.

However, more accurate identification of some of the smaller specimens requires resolution beyond the capabilities of readily available medical CT-scanners. Recently, we micro-CT-scanned three of our smaller animal mummies (two snakes and one crocodile ) at the American Museum of Natural History, and partnered with Dr. Evon Hekkala from Fordham University and the members of Dr. Frank Burbrink’s lab in the Department of Herpetology to attempt identifications. We placed the mummies directly in the chamber, on padded supports, to be slowly rotated and scanned.

When the scan was complete we began to analyze the images.

And here are a couple of teaser images of the two snakes. Stay tuned for the next post, which will summarize what we learned from our expert collaborators.

If you can’t wait for next week, dive into our video archives and watch mummies from The Mummy Chamber undergo CT-scans and examination.

Posted by Anna Serotta and Yekaterina Barbash

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