Archaeologists working in the dog catacomb have uncovered eight million mummified dogs and other animals. Photo: National Geographic/P.T. Nicholson
Excavations at the Saqqara necropolis are uncovering more than just the remains of the Egyptian populace. The Memphite cemetery is best known as the location of the world’s oldest pyramid and for its millennia-long significance for the Egyptian afterlife, but recent excavations at the so-called dog catacomb have brought to light the lesser-known tale of over eight million mummified dogs and other animals. Discovered by Jacques De Morgan in 1897, the canine cemetery has only received serious archaeological activity since 2009. Buried near a temple to Anubis (a jackal-headed deity), the mummified dogs were thought to act as intermediaries between the human and divine worlds, according to the archaeologists working in the dog catacomb. While some mummified dogs reached an old age, others were mummified shortly after their birth. The dogs do not stand alone in the Egyptian world; cults to bulls, cows, baboons, ibises, hawks and cats have been uncovered in the past, but the massive scale of this dog catacomb and its relation to the Anubis temple still require further investigation.
Exclusive for BAS LIbrary Members: In the 1850s, the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette made a surprising discovery in the Necropolis at Saqqara. For the fascinating tale of the first discovery of the mummified animal cult in ancient Egypt, read “Past Perfect: Opening the Tomb of the Sacred Bull” in the BAS Library as it appeared in Archaeology Odyssey.
Posted in The Ancient Near Eastern World.