Archaeologists are now using anatomical technology to look into Egypt’s past. Scanning techniques such as X-ray and CT allow researchers to examine mummified specimens without having to unwrap them, which can be destructive. And it’s not just human mummies which are the subject of interest – countless animals were often mummified and entombed alongside important people. Professor Salima Ikram at the American University in Cairo scanned this mummified kestrel and made a startling discovery about Egyptian tradition in the process. The last meal of the unfortunate bird is still clearly visible – and suggests that ritual overfeeding of animal sacrifices was common practice. The kestrel contain no less than three mice – one still partly stuck in its throat – and at least one sparrow and that it may well have choked as a result. There were no other obvious signs of damage, nor were any organs removed as they are in human mummies. Overfeeding is visible in lots of Egyptian art, but this is the first time that it has been identified as a cause of death in an embalmed animal. One more fascinating use for anatomy, eh!
Image courtesy of Salima Ikram. Read more about this work here.