Ancient Egyptians Take Puppy Love to Heavenly Levels

Over the past several years dogs have grown to be an increasingly important part of our lives, but a museum exhibit poses the question: are we moving forward or getting back to the way things used to be?

By | Posted: April 4, 2014, 12 p.m. PST

An art exhibit titled "Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt," is exploring the role of animals thousands of years ago. The exhibition contains more than 100 items, including drawings and sculptures, as well as the mummified remains of dogs, cats, birds, snakes and crocodiles. It will be on display at the  Orange County's Bowers Museum through June 15, before moving on to Tennessee's Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

 

Cat and bird mummy, photo by Damian Dovarganes/The Associated Press

 

Believed to be messengers to god, animals were given the responsibility of carrying messages to the various gods in their passing. The dog, for example, was considered the sacred messenger of the god Anubis, who is depicted in art as a man with the head of a dog. Letters were often included with the animal mummies in hopes that the animal god would assist in problems ranging from difficulties at work to pleas to help the ill.

Dogs and animals in general were so highly revered in Egyptian society that tens of millions received the honor of being mummified after their passing. Many of the detailed and elaborate dog mummies and sarcophaguses were placed in the  pharaohs' tombs so that they could be laid to rest with the company of kings. Other animals received elaborate coffins and carvings that rivaled royalty. According to the Associated Press, archaeologists have found more than 30 Egyptian cemeteries created for animal mummies, some containing several million specimens.

"It just shows how closely Egyptians thought of animals on some basic level as being very similar to human beings," says Edward Bleiberg, the exhibition's curator.

 

Dog Mummy, photo by Damian Dovarganes/The Associated Press

 

In the museum’s exhibit, visitors will not only get a chance to see the ancient mummies and art work, but also a modern look at what is beneath the wrappings of these beloved pets. CT scans of the mummies have allowed for the creation of three-dimensional images that are also part of the display.

More interestingly though is that the scans have also uncovered secrets that ancient mummy craftsmen may have preferred stay under wraps. While many of the images are what one would expect from a mummified animal, one of the scans revealed a mummy filled with rocks while another showed bird feathers without the bird.

Like humans, the animals had to be cut open, salted and bathed in a substance like wine to be preserved. Archaeologists have found more than 30 Egyptian cemeteries created for animal mummies, some containing several million specimens.

For more information on the museum and the exhibit, visit Bowers.org

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