Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Sacred animal mummy bundle containing shrews

Late Period–Roman Period
ca. 400 B.C.–100 A.D.
From Egypt, Northern Upper Egypt, Abydos, Ibis Cemetery, Egypt Exploration Fund excavations, 1912–13
Dyed linen, animal remains, mummification materials
L. 15.5 × W. 11.5 × H. 7 cm (6 1/8 × 4 1/2 × 2 3/4 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Egypt Exploration Fund, 1913
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 134
Animal cults

The Egyptians considered certain individual animals to be living manifestations of a god, such as, since earliest times, the Apis bull . Those individuals were duly mummifed when they died and buried for eternal life, then replaced by another single living manifestation. During the first millennium BC, many multiples of animals associated with certain gods were specially raised in temple precincts as simultaneous avatars of that god and then mummified in large contingents and deposited in catacombs for eternal life. The ancient perception of these multiples, the evolution of the practice in this direction, znd variations within the practice are not easily accessible to us. But the hundreds of thousands of often elaborately prepared animal mummies found in catacombs and other locales testify to its ancient resonance.

Animal mummies

Research on animal mummies has shown that the majority of mummies found at the large animal cemetery sites are pre-adults who were purposely killed for use. Some of the mummies are actually ‘substitute’ mummies containing only a few bones or feathers or possibly just sticks or sand.

This wrapped packet was found at Abydos in the same area as 13.186.4a-c. ,Recently a review of the museum's animal mummies and their x-rays was conducted in consultation with an expert in their study, and brought to light a number of interesting points. The wrappings of this bundle consist of strips of rather coarse linen woven to create a geometric pattern. Inside the bundle are the mummies of approximately twelve shrews. Shrews are connected with a manifestation of the sun god, and by extension, the king.
Egypt Exploration Fund excavations at Abydos, 1912-13. Acquired by the EEF in the division of finds. Acquired by the Museum through subscription to the EEF, 1913.

Peet and W.L.S. Loat 1913. The Cemeteries of Abydos, 35. Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Fund, London and Boston.

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