According to a study published on January 18, 2023 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by a team of researchers led by Bea De Cupere from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and the University of Jaén, crocodiles were mummified in a unique way during the 5th Century BC at the Egyptian site of Qubbat al-Hawā.
Although mummified animals, including crocodiles, are frequently discovered at Egyptian archaeological sites, they are not frequently analyzed thoroughly, despite several hundred mummified crocodiles being available in museum collections around the world. The researchers in this study provide a detailed examination of the morphology and preservation of ten crocodile mummies discovered in rock tombs on the west bank of the Nile at Qubbat al-Hawā.
The ten mummies included five isolated skulls and five partial skeletons, which the researchers were able to study without unwrapping or utilizing CT-scanning and radiography. By examining the morphology of the crocodiles, the researchers identified two species: West African and Nile crocodiles, with sizes ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 meters in length.
The preservation technique utilized in mummifying the crocodiles differed from that seen at other sites, most notably the absence of resin usage or carcass evisceration as part of the mummification process. This preservation style indicates a pre-Ptolemaic age, consistent with the final phase of funerary use of Qubbat al-Hawā during the 5th Century BC.
Comparing mummies from different archaeological sites is beneficial in identifying patterns in animal use and mummification practices over time. However, the study’s limitations included the lack of available ancient DNA and radiocarbon dating, which would have been helpful in refining the identification and dating of the remains. Future research that incorporates these techniques will provide further insights into ancient Egyptian cultural practices.
The authors note that the ten crocodile mummies, which included five mostly complete bodies and five heads, were discovered in an undisturbed tomb at Qubbat al-Hawā in Aswan, Egypt. The mummies varied in their states of preservation and completeness.
Source: Public Library of Science