This is a follow-up to my last blogpost, where I posted some side-by-side images of animal mummies and their x-rays. In this post I’m going to explain what we think we’re seeing in the radiographs.
Let’s start with one of the easiest ones:
50-17-1: mummy paired with radiograph
This one is really easy. While the mummy is made to look like a cat, we can clearly see that there are no cat remains, or any remains, inside. All we see inside are very small straight pins, which were pushed into the linen wrappings in 1980 to keep them from unraveling. We know this happened in 1980 because it is noted in an old conservation report. A good example of an ancient “fake”!
The next one is also fairly easy to interpret.
E12438: mummy from the side, paired with radiograph
We thought this was an ibis mummy, and sure enough, we see an entire ibis inside the wrappings. The GIF above highlights the distinctive skull and beak of the ibis in red.
You could say that the next one, which appears to be a crocodile mummy, has a couple extra special surprises inside:
E17631: mummy from above, paired with radiograph
There are 3 baby crocodiles under the wrappings! The GIF above highlights the 3 skulls in red.
Next we have what appears to be a falcon mummy, but what we see inside is harder to interpret:
E12441: mummy paired with radiograph
Upon close inspection, we can see 2 separate, and very small birds inside. In the GIF above, the red outlines the skulls and beaks and the blue outlines the bodies. We don’t think that these birds are falcons, or even birds of prey at all. They look much more like doves or pigeons (based on examination of comparative specimens with zooarchaeologist Dr. Kate Moore). It’s possible that this mummy was never meant to represent a falcon at all – the jury is still out on this one.
Lastly, we have the tiniest mummy of the bunch:
E12435: mummy from the side, paired with radiograph
There is an animal inside, and it looks like its body is upside-down. It is very difficult to make out, but we can see its front teeth and its long tail. This one definitely called for the expertise of Dr. Moore, who brought up some comparative specimens from her collection. Ultimately, it was the teeth that convinced her that what we see inside this little mummy is a shrew.
Dr. Moore holding a tiny shrew skull
To the ancient Egyptians, the shrew represented the nocturnal side of Horus. Here is a link to an image of a similar shrew mummy in the collection at the Brooklyn Museum.
Our fun with animal mummies never ends! For more information about where these mummies came from, check our their catalog records in our Collections Database:
50-17-1: Cat mummy
E17631: Crocodile mummy
E12441: Falcon mummy
E12438: Ibis mummy
E12435: Shrew mummy