Sacred animal mummy of an ibis

Late Period–Roman Period

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 mummified when they died and buried for eternal life, then replaced by another single living manifestation. During the first millennium B.C., 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, and 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 ibis mummy 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. In this particular case the wrappings have a black linear emphasis created with dark-dyed linen; inside the wrappings is a well-preserved ibis mummy.

Sacred animal mummy of an ibis, Dyed and unyed linen, animal remains, mummfication materials

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