Bible and archaeology news
Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities recently announced that rare mummified scarab beetles as well as dozens of mummified cats were uncovered in Saqqara, the main necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis (just south of modern Cairo). Archaeological excavations took place in three New Kingdom tombs and four Old Kingdom tombs near Pharaoh Userkaf’s pyramid complex. One Old Kingdom tomb, in particular, dating to the Fifth or Sixth Dynasty (c. 24th–22nd centuries B.C.E.), belonged to an overseer of the royal buildings named Khufu-Imhat.
According to Dr. Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, this is the first time scarab mummies have been found in a Memphis necropolis. In one large limestone sarcophagus, the lid of which was decorated with an image of three scarabs, archaeologists found two large scarab mummies wrapped in linen. Another collection of scarabs was discovered in a smaller limestone sarcophagus with a lid painted with one scarab.
At least by the Ptolemaic period, the Egyptians viewed cats as manifestations of Bastet, goddess of joy and fertility and protector of women in childbirth. Bastet was sometimes represented as a serene she-cat; at other times, she had the graceful body of a woman and the head of a cat.
Even the famous Egyptian vizier ‘Abdiel was buried with hundreds of cat mummies in Saqqara.
“Egyptians mummified animals to create votive objects, as an offering to the gods,” explained Egyptologist Dr. Leslie Anne Warden of Roanoke College in an email to Bible History Daily. “These animals would bring prayers to the gods for all eternity.”
Archaeologists also discovered within these Saqqara tombs cobra and crocodile mummies, 1,000 faience amulets dedicated to an assortment of deities, and fragments of a Book of the Dead (a collection of funerary texts intended to assist a person’s journey beyond this world).
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