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Rodent Mummies Found In Egyptian Tombs


A cemetery of mummified animals, which experts say could shed new light on ancient Egypt's religious beliefs, has been discovered by archaeologists at Abydos, southern Egypt. It contains large pottery jars holding the mummified bodies of 25 falcons, and eight small limestone coffins with the mummies of rodents measuring about 10cm (4in), officials said. The coffins are embossed with golden reliefs of the animals.

Several more rodent mummies were found in small wooden coffins painted in red and blue, said Yahya al-Masri, the antiquities official responsible for the area, who believes that many more animal mummies remain to be found at the site.



The cemetery, believed to date to the late Pharaonic era, was found after ground subsided at Abydos, a vast complex of tombs and temples which was believed by ancient Egyptians to have been the gateway to the underworld.

Salima Ikram, a leading expert on animal mummies, said: "It's a fantastic find that could tell us a lot about what people believed at the time, as well as about ancient fauna. "The ancient Egyptians mummified a wide range of animals, from baboons to beetles, either as pets or because they were sacred.

A cemetery containing dogs and a bird called the ibis was found at Abdyos in the 19th century, but archaeologists have traditionally neglected animal cemeteries in favour of more glamorous human burial grounds, Mr Ikram said. "We'll continue to work there to see what else might be buried at the site," said Gaballah Ali Gaballah, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. Experts will also try to decipher hieroglyphs found at the site.


By Caroline Hawley in Cairo 

(This news update is courtesy of News Service,  which has a complete daily news service from around the world)

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