They are the stars of today: five Egyptian animal mummies are currently being examined by a veterinary clinic in Strasbourg. According to the inventory, they could contain a fish, cats, ibis and hawk. Veterinarians, Egyptologists and radiologists participate in this unique analysis to unravel all the mysteries.
For the first time, these three specialties are working together to decipher the contents of these five animal mummies from the collection of the University of Egyptology in Strasbourg. “Our work is to try to reconstruct the actions taken by the ancient Egyptian specialists who created these mummies,” explains Professor Frédéric Colin, curator of the Egyptian collection at the University of Strasbourg.
Embalmed in strips, the small so-called votive mummies arrived at the AgoraVet clinic, one of the few veterinary facilities equipped with the scanner necessary to analyze these mummified animals. One by one, these more than 2,000-year-old mummies are scanned and revealed using medical imaging. X-rays allow researchers to determine what is hidden under the strips without having to open them.
How and why were these mummies made?
First to go through the scanner, a mummy that looks like a fish. “We can see the fish’s mouth, so we’re pretty sure it’s there,” declares Professor Frédéric Colin. Image verdict: “The animal is whole, we can see the skeleton, skin, bones. The most interesting thing is to know how it is mummified and how it is preserved, and then we will go further in the interpretation with the veterinarians” , explains radiologist Samuel Merigeaud.
The second examination turns out to be more complicated. At first glance, the specialists were leaning towards the cat mummy. But once they discovered animal fragments under X-ray. “In the same package we have a bone that is very long, but it seems out of proportion to the rest. So the question arises as to the species, either wild cat or a mixture of several animals.” analyzed by veterinarian Xavier Ferreira.
In the coming weeks, experts will precisely carbon-14 date the mummies and will likely take DNA samples. The result of the study will enable accurate dating of five animal mummies from the University of Strasbourg and, above all, will deepen knowledge about the religious ceremonies of the Egyptian civilization.