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Egypt unveils animal mummies of lion cubs, crocodiles, birds

China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-25 09:48

Mummified cats found inside a cache at the Saqqara area near its necropolis, are on display in Giza, Egypt, on Saturday. [HAYAM ADEL/REUTERS]

SAQQARA, Egypt - Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities on Saturday revealed details of recently discovered animal mummies, including two lion cubs as well as several crocodiles, birds and cats.

Items from the new find were displayed at a makeshift exhibition at the famed Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara, south of Cairo, near where mummies and other artifacts thousands of years old have been found in a vast necropolis.

"We are finding here hundreds of objects," said Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany. "All of them are very interesting from the Egyptological point of view to know better this area."

He described the discovery as "a (whole) museum by itself".

Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters that local archaeologists found a cache that includes hundreds of mummified animals, birds and crocodiles.

He said that among the mummified animals were two lion cubs and radar scans were needed on three others to determine that the mummies were also lions.

The Saqqara plateau hosted at least 11 pyramids, including the Step Pyramid, along with hundreds of tombs of ancient officials from the 1st dynasty (2920 BC-2770 BC) up to the Coptic period (AD 395-642).

Archaeologists frequently find mummified cats but the recovery of a lion is rare. In 2004, the first lion skeleton was found in Saqqara, revealing the sacred status of the animal in ancient times.

Archaeologists also found wooden and bronze cat statues representing the ancient goddess Bastet and a rare large stone scarab, which Waziri described as "the largest (in) all over the world".

They also displayed two mummies of ichneumon, or the Egyptian mongoose, wrapped in linen bandages and wooden and tin-glazed statuettes of the goddess Sekhmet, represented as a woman with the head of a lioness. Scholars say Sekhmet (1390-1252 BC) was a goddess of war and the destroyer of the enemies of the sun god Re.

There were also strips of papyrus with depictions of the goddess Taweret depicted as a hippopotamus with the tail of a crocodile.

Markings on the displayed artifacts show that they date back to the Late Period, which spanned 664-332 BC.

Egypt has sought to promote its unique heritage as a way to revive its vital tourism sector, which has been badly hit by political insecurity and attacks.

However, critics say archaeological sites and museums suffer from negligence and poor management.


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