Animal and Human Mummification

As well as preparing human bodies for the afterlife through mummification, the people of ancient Egypt believed that animals could act as intermediaries between the human and the divine worlds.

For this reason a variety of animal species were mummified by the ancient Egyptians so that they could be given as offerings during ceremonies performed at sites of religious worship. The study of these mummified animal remains provides valuable information that relates not only to the biology of the animals themselves but also reveals the beliefs of ancient Egyptian people and the motivations underlying their religious practices.  Our researchers are using digital imaging methods as well as experimental mummification techniques to advance our knowledge about these fascinating artefacts.

Imaging Studies

With funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council our researchers are using CT scanning and digital radiography to investigate the design, contents and state of preservation of ancient Egyptian votive animal mummies. We are employing advanced visualisation software and 3D printing, together with analysis of documentary and archaeological sources for animal mummy production, in an effort to determine the reasons for disjunctions between the external appearance and the actual contents of votive animal mummies. Radiographic imaging of mummies is conducted through a partnership with the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, the Manchester X-Ray Imaging Facility and regional imaging centres.

Experimental Mummification

A programme of experimental mummification is underway in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, Tring, to increase our understanding of the techniques used in the production of animal mummies. Substances such as waxes and resins used during the mummification process have been identified from chemical analysis of small samples recovered from damaged ancient specimens. We have used these same chemical ingredients in the production of experimental replicas, in which we repeat the ancient methods using fresh animal cadavers. These modern replica mummies are then monitored to determine the effectiveness of the mummification process.

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