We all know that the ancient Egyptians mummified the dead bodies of their loved ones with elaborate rituals and scientific rigor, whether they were a revered pharaoh or, if non-royal Egyptians could afford it, a beloved family member. But even in modern times, we can understand that human love and affection extend beyond just our two-legged relatives. Our pets hold very special places in our hearts too.
So it should come as no surprise that ancient Egyptians of sufficient means wanted to give the same care to their beloved pets in death as they did in life. And from this very human tendency comes… yes, you guessed it – pet mummies.
Animals were loved, respected, and often revered by the ancient Egyptians. Not only were many of their gods and goddesses depicted in animal form, but it was also believed that mistreating mortal animals could be a bar to successful entry into the afterlife.
Treating Mittens with respect in ancient Egypt was no joke. It’s no wonder cats today act so high and mighty. The “good ole days” they can harken back to are when they used to be painted as gods and mummified like pharaohs.
But it wasn’t only cats that were mummified. Dogs, mongooses, birds, monkeys, baboons, crocodiles, and plenty of other animals have been preserved for all eternity using the ancient art of mummification as well. And lucky for us, a significant number of these animal mummies have been found and are on display for the curious at museums around the world.
The British Museum in London has a few notable animal mummies in its collection. But if you really want to see the full range of animal mummies that have been dug out of Egypt’s sands, you need to head to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and specifically to their animal mummy room.
Many visitors to the Egyptian Museum miss the animal mummy room because it is tucked away on the upper floor of the museum towards the front of the building, while most of the more famous exhibits are on the sides and at the back of the building. But if you make the effort to wander back towards the front, you’ll notice a little recessed area off to the right (looking from the back of the building on the inside towards the front) where you can go around a corner and into two connected rooms.
It’s there that you’ll find an entire fascinating collection of animal mummies. Some were revered pets, while others were preserved as offerings to the gods. But mummification was an involved and expensive process in ancient Egypt, so all of these animal mummies served a very important purpose in the afterlife, whether for companionship or divine appeasement.
If I were an ancient Egyptian noble or royal and could afford it, I’d surely have my little princess [i.e., dog] Ariel mummified when she dies with all the pomp and ritual necessary to ensure that she could be with me in the afterlife too. Wouldn’t you?