Ancient Egyptians have long been believed to have worshiped felines, not canines, but it turns out experts may have gotten it wrong as almost eight (8) million mummified dogs were recently found around Saqqara, inside the catacombs of god of death himself, Anubis.
Saqqara is a much beloved landmark that brings in thousands of tourists due to its historical value, which includes mythology revolving around dogs. Even though today we think of our barking pets as loyal friends and guardians of the house, ancient Egyptians saw them as kind of a bridge or guiding light into the afterlife.
It was said that that a man’s best friend could put in a good word for them with Anubis, a god half man, half dog, and the belief was so wide spread that out of the eight (8) million mummified animals that British researchers from Cardiff University found in the catacombs, most of them were dogs. It is unknown whether or not the animals were alive when brought into the graves, and if they were alive, how they were expected to survive.
While animals were often buried with their humans in Ancient Egyptian, the researchers inform that the this particular scale has never been encountered before, with Paul Nicholson, project director and professor at the Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, saying that “We’re very pleased and somewhat surprised by the results. We hadn’t expected that there would be so many animals, and it opens up a new series of questions”.
Nicholson has been studying animal worshipping cults for a few decades, since the 1990s, and his working theory is that ancient Egyptians would not think of it as killing or burying an animal, but that they saw it as allowing said animal to move forward onto a different plane of existence.
He went on to explain that dogs were especially popular burial companions as humans thought it was important to present Anubis with a representation of himself. He stresses that people did not see it as a fanatical blood sacrifice, but that it was religious act to them, done with the best possible motives in mind.
He added that people did not only send animals into the grave for their own well-being in the afterlife, but that they were hopeful the animals could also help some of their recently deceased relatives and convince Anubis to take care of them.
Even though the dog catacombs of Anubis have been mapped out since 1897, previous research teams have mostly focused of the temples outside the catacombs. This all changed in 2009, when Nicholson and his team received help and support from Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, as well as sponsorship thanks to National Geographic, and were allowed to start looking deep inside into
the Saqqara site.
Hey found animal remains in some of the tunnels. They were mummified, wrapped in bandages, with some of them even having a resin applied. However, Nicholson informs that they were in poor condition, they were the decayed remains of mummies
While there were some mature specimens found inside the catacombs, most of them were very young small in size. Nicholson offers a possible explanation, albeit a morbid one – that the poor animals were bred specifically to be buried for the cult.
The team is currently still exploring the catacombs, trying to determine if there are any sex or age patterns among the remains.
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