In ancient Egypt dogs were considered bridges to the afterlife. But up until now scientists probably did not truly know how important dogs were in fact. British researches have discovered 8 million dog mummies in the catacombs near the sacred temple of Anubis, the god of death who had the head of a jackal.
The lead author of the research, Paul Nicholson from Cardiff University, said that they were pleased to discover this, but also surprised because they would have never expected to find such a large number of dog mummies and this leads to a large number of questions.
Besides the mummified puppies and grown dogs the researchers also found the fossil of an ancient sea monster which has more than 48 million years. It is most likely a species related to the manatees and dugongs from our days. In addition there were also found mummified remains of long-legged birds including the baboon, the bull, the hawk and the ibis. Aside from long-legged birds the investigators excavated mummies of cats, falcons, mongoose, jackals and foxes. However 92 percent of the remains were dog mummies and that is why it is not yet clear why other such animals were also buried in canine catacombs.
The reason to why people would bring animals to such a place was explained by Nicholson, who has been studying animal cults starting with the 1990s. According to him people would not have simply killed and animal, but instead this was perceived as a way to allow animals to move onto a different plane. A dog was a fit choice because it was a close relative of the jackal, just as the head of Anubis.
So what the ancient Egyptians wanted to do was to have a fitting burial which was a good representation of Anubis. It is a religious act which has good motives behind it, not a blood sacrifice.
Many of the dogs were only a few hours or days old when they were turned into mummies. The puppies were most likely bred for the cults, whereas the older dogs were probably raised at the temple and had more elaborate funerals.
Besides analyzing the dog mummies the research team also looked at the large catacombs and its rock walls. Nicholson said about the very long dark tunnels:
“There is no natural light once you’ve gone into the forepart of the catacomb, and beyond that everything has to be lit with flashlights. It’s really quite a spectacular thing.”
Image Source: Terrierman’s Daily Dose