Unearthing Ancient 2,500 Year Old Crocodile Mummies in Egyptian Tomb Explorations

In a stunning discovery, archaeologists have unearthed ten remarkably preserved mummified crocodiles in an undisturbed ancient Egyptian tomb. The tomb was found at a Byzantine-era dump near the West Bank of the River Nile in Egypt in 2019, by archaeologists from the University of Jaen in Spain.

The New York Times reported that the crocs, seemingly alive, resembled “living crocodiles moving stealthily through mud.” Crocodiles held significant roles in Egyptian culture and were revered as symbols of Sobek, an Egyptian deity associated with fertility and protection.

According to Dr. Bea De Cupere, one of the archaeologists from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, these findings indicate that crocodiles might have been used for medicinal purposes, potentially linked to treating pain or various ailments, based on remnants found in their bodies.

Of most mummies collected by museums in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, often hatchlings, their origins remained uncertain. However, these specimens were discovered intact, shedding light on their place in ancient societies and their importance.

Dr. De Cupere, specializing in animal remains, contacted scientists at the University of Jaen to examine the mummies closely. “You have archaeologists doing excavation and, if they find animal remains that they think are worth looking at, that’s when we come into the picture,” she said.

She noted that discoveries made at the start of the last century contained bitumen, making it impossible to dissect them. However, this wasn’t the case with the latest crocodile mummies found.

“We were therefore able to study the bones in detail and even in particular cases the skin of one of the crocodiles was entirely preserved,” she added.

These specimens were in a well-preserved state, unlike other burial sites for local dignitaries and date back to a period before 2,100 BC.

“These mummies were excellently preserved due to their intact state. Moreover, unlike the previously discovered preserved specimens, they were not impregnated with bitumen, and the remains of fabric that covered them were eaten by insects,” Dr. De Cupere explained.

“We were able to study the bones in detail, and even in one particular case, the skin of one of the crocodiles was entirely preserved.”

The discovery offers valuable insights into the ancient Egyptian practices involving crocodiles and their significance in their culture, further unraveling the mysteries of these magnificent creatures from the past.

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