Unwrapped

5 mummified animals tell a new story of the past

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Mummified humans can teach us a lot about how ancient cultures viewed life and death, but they don’t tell the whole story.

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Animals were subject to mummification, too.

They have just as much to teach us about the people who lived with them.

Here are 5 mummified animals that can teach us about the past.

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Calogero Santoro, Universidad de Tarapacá and José Capriles, Penn State

5. Parrots and macaws reveal a 900-year-old trade route

An international team of researchers found mummified birds in an oasis community in northern Chile, where they were raised for their valuable feathers.

Carlos Capriles Farfán

Traders brought the wild birds on grueling 300-mile treks from the Amazon to the Atacama desert between 1100 and 1450 CE.

4. Ancient birds’ diets show they were hunted as sacrifices

Mummified birds from Ancient Egypt show evidence of a varied diet common in wild birds, but not those raised by humans, according to researchers in France.

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That means that birds were hunted en masse for religious sacrifices, unlike other animals that were bred for the same purpose.

3. Crocodile mummies show the Nile was more crowded than we thought

A team of U.S. researchers found genetic evidence that two separate crocodile species lived in the Nile, not just one as was commonly believed.

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Researcher Evon Hekkala tells Inverse Ancient Egyptians recognized two distinct species of crocodiles living at the time, a hypothesis which modern research only recently caught up to.

R. Johnston, et al. SCIENTIFIC REPORTS (2021)

2. Mummified animals provide grisly details of their deaths

Researchers from the U.K. used a new non-intrusive imaging approach to find evidence of strangulation and spinal fracture in a mummified cat and snake from Egypt.

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While some animals were kept as pets in Ancient Egypt, their treatment shows a vastly different relationship between humans and animals than we have today.

1. Baboon mummies helped scientists locate a lost civilization

Researchers led by Dartmouth College traced mummified baboons in Egypt to an area of Africa where Ethiopia, Eritrea, Dijbouti, Somalia, and Yemen now lie.

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The finding helped researchers isolate the long-disputed location of an ancient civilization called Punt, which traded baboons to Egypt.

Read more stories on animals here.

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