Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Sacred animal mummy containing a dog

Period:
Late Period–Roman Period
Date:
ca. 400 B.C.–100 A.D.
Geography:
From Egypt, Western Desert; Kharga Oasis, el-Deir, Roman Cemetery
Medium:
Dyed and undyed linen, animal remains, mummification materials
Dimensions:
H. 32.5 cm (12 13/16 in.); W. 8 cm (3 1/8 in.); D. 10.4 cm (4 1/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1913
Accession Number:
13.182.49
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.

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. In this particular case the wrappings have a checkerboard pattern created with darker and lighter colored linens. The body inside the wrappings is complete although also damaged in the head area and the lower part mixed in with inorganic material. Long considered - with 13.182.50 - to be a cat, it turns out to be a dog mummy. Many related dog mummies have been found in modern work at the site from which this one derives.
Purchased from Wiliam Hornblower, Cairo, 1913, acquired by him from El-Deir, Kharga Oasis.

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