Friday, October 23, 2009

Egyptian Animal Mummies

The latest issue of National Geographic has an article on Egyptian Animal mummies. As is usual with the magazine, there are a lot of good photos and the article is otherwise short. The article does have some interesting content however.

The article mentions some work done by Dr. Salima Ikram on mummification. She has attempted to mummify a number of rabbits and used different methods of mummification with each. Here are the results:

1) Cover the dead rabbit in natron without removing the internal organs – this was a complete failure.
2) Remove the rabbit’s organs, stuff it with natron and cover the exterior in natron – this worked.
3) Another rabbit was stuffed with natron contained in linen bags – this resulted in much less of a “mess” (the Natron gets soggy and “disgusting” if it is put inside the corpse without the linen bag), which probably explains why linen bags filled with natron sometimes turn up embalming caches.
4) A fourth rabbit was mummified after having a turpentine and cedar oil enema to destroy its internal organs. This method of mummification was described by Herodotus and scholars have long been skeptical of the Greek historian’s description of the process. However, Herodotus may have been right, as the enema destroyed all of the internal organs except the heart (which needed to be left in the body per Egyptian religious beliefs).

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