An ancient Egyptian tomb containing ten mummified crocodiles has been unearthed.
The contents of the tomb were probably sacrificed to the crocodile-headed god Sobek.
One researcher said crocodile mummies were common, but finding ten mummies at once was “extraordinary”.
Archaeologists have found a tomb containing ten mummified crocodiles in ancient Egypt, according to a study published Wednesday.
The tomb, found in 2019 at the Qubbet al-Hawa site near the town of Aswan in southern Egypt, contained five crocodile skeletons and five heads.
The leading theory is that crocodiles were sacrificed as an offering to Sobek, the crocodile-headed god of the Nile and fertility.
The discovery was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE.
No traces of cuts were found on the crocodiles, but strings found in the remains suggest that these rather large alligators – the largest 12 feet long – were tied until they died.
“We found evidence that crocodiles were bound to death, possibly by dehydration,” Egyptologist Alejandro Jiménez-Serrano, of the University of Jaén in Spain, and author of the study, told Insider.
Linen bandage marks also indicate that these crocodiles were mummified before burial. This shows that animals were sacrificed to a god.
However, this was a very primitive form of mummification. The animals were not preserved with resin and their internal organs were not removed. They were completely buried and left to mummify naturally in hot sand.
The scientists even found a stomach stone, a stone that crocodiles carry in their intestines to balance themselves in the water, suggesting that the intestines were never removed.
This indicates that these crocodiles are quite ancient, dating back to the 5th century BC, according to the study.
Sobek, the crocodile-headed fertility god
“It was a big surprise for us,” said Jiménez-Serrano.
“Theoretically, it was an area where there wasn’t much devotion to the crocodile god Sobek.”
According to Jiménez-Serrano, devotion to animal gods and goddesses began to increase in Egypt in the first millennium BC.
Mummified cats, cobras, kestrels, and other animals wrapped in neat packages were commonly used to send requests to the gods.
“If you wanted to ask God something, the line between you and them was the animal mummy,” said Jiménez-Serrano.
Crocodile mummies have been found before. But they had never been found with this type of mummification, and they had never been found at Qubbet el-Hawa.
“More than 20 burial sites with crocodile mummies are known in Egypt, but it is extraordinary to find 10 well-preserved crocodile mummies in an intact tomb,” said Bea De Cupere, an archaeozoologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. study, he said in a press release.
The closest cult center for worship to Sobek was Kom Ombo, a town about 51 miles from Qubbet el-Hawa.
However, Jiménez-Serrano thinks this does not mean that a temple for Sobek was established in the area. So it’s more likely that this was a one-off event where all ten alligators were killed in one go.
“I think there was only one dedication ceremony where you left the crocodiles, and you performed the rites to petition God Sobek about your petition,” he said.
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