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Egyptians hunted crocodiles just to make them mummies

by Ace Damon
Egyptians hunted crocodiles just to make them mummies

Buried with loved ones, reptiles helped move the embalmed animal trade of the time. Understand.

By Ingrid Luisa

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Sep 24, 2019, 6:54 pm – Posted on Sep 24, 2019, 6:51 pm

(The Washington Post / Getty Images)

The Egyptians were obsessed with the art of mummification. In addition to humans, it is known that cats, foxes, monkeys, horses, lions and other animals have also been expertly preserved thanks to this technique.

The logic was the same for everyone: it was because ancient Egyptian society believed in the afterlife. According to belief, one day the spirit would return to the body, so the "receptacle" would need to be fully preserved. The tradition was so strong in the culture that it embraced anyone. A commoner was not mummified in the same way as a Pharaoh, of course – there were more advanced techniques for the nobles and simpler techniques for the commoner – but absolutely everyone cared for the bodies of their loved ones.

And for the bodies of the animals. To the Egyptians, many animals represented intermediaries between mortals and gods, or even incarnations of different deities. So mummifying them and storing these species in the graves was highly valued.

You, the reader, may be asking now, "Okay, SUPER, but if there's a lot of mummified bugs, what's special about the fact that crocodiles are too?"

In fact, the issue is not even the mummified animal, but how it was obtained. At one point, the embalming of animals eventually became a certain "industry" of ancient Egypt. Since you couldn't always expect a natural death of the animal to produce a mummy of it, the way was to ensure a constant supply.

Then came the makers of embalmed species. They had a range of breeding strategies – from recovering wildlife carcasses to breeding for the sole purpose of securing mummies in the future.

Now scientists at the Paul Valéry University in Montpellier, France, have confirmed that there was also another option, a little more cruel: hunting. Egyptians killed wild animals in their natural habitat just to mummify. According to the researchers, this is the first concrete evidence of animal hunting for this purpose.

The group came to this conclusion from a "virtual autopsy" on a 2,000-year-old crocodile mummy. The piece was discovered by archaeologists who excavated the city of Kom Ombo in Egypt in the early 20th century.

In the study, the authors report being surprised to find a serious injury to the reptile's head. "The most likely cause of death is a serious skull fracture that caused direct trauma to the brain," they write. "The size of the fracture, as well as its direction and shape, suggest that it was made by a single blow, probably with a thick wooden club."

Today, the crocodile is one of 2,500 animal mummies on display at the Confluence Museum in Lyon, France. Based on the results of the new analysis, the animal, a male crocodile about five feet long, was 3 to 4 years old at the time it was killed. According to Egyptian beliefs, crocodiles were associated with Sobek, a fertility god who had a reptile's head and a man's body.

The study was published in the journal Journal of Archaeological Science.

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