Thursday, January 26, 2012

Egyptians fed ibis birds for the afterlife

New Scientist (Linda Geddes)

Ancient Egyptians paid special attention to the organs of their dead, embalming them so they would continue to function in the afterlife. Now it seems they did the same for sacrificed ibis birds, and even packed their stomachs with food so they wouldn't go hungry.

Ibis mummies are found in their millions at shrines in Egypt, where they were sacrificed to Thoth, the god of writing and wisdom. Andrew Wade at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, and his colleagues used a CT scanner to look inside two mummified adult ibises and one hatchling. This revealed that embalmers had removed their internal organs. The adult gizzards, complete with snail shells which may have come from the birds' last meals, were then replaced. The hatchling's body cavity had been stuffed with grain.

Vancouver Sun (Randy Boswell)

Analysis of a mummified, 2,500-year-old bird in the collection of a Canadian museum has led to a significant discovery about how ancient Egyptians viewed animals and their role in the afterlife.

Led by University of Western Ontario archeologist Andrew Wade, a team of experts from Canada, the U.S. and Egypt used computer imaging techniques to identify food stuffed into the beaks or bellies of sacred ibises — including a specimen from Montreal's Redpath Museum — before the creatures were sacrificed, mummified and placed as offerings to a god at prehistoric religious sites throughout the North African country.

The findings are the first to show mummified animals being treated with the same kind of reverence shown to humans, with ancient Egyptians apparently determined to ensure adequate food supplies for all living beings as they journeyed beyond death.

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