Dozens of cat mummies and ancient scarab beetles discovered in Egypt

Dozens of cat mummies and ancient scarab beetles, as well as scores of other artefacts, have been discovered in a tomb at Saqqara.

Egyptian archaeologists have been investigating a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis.

The tomb is around 6,000 years old, dating to the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom.

On Saturday, Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities turned to social media to reveal some of the artefacts they’d found inside.

Pictures of the mummified cats have since been shared far and wide…

As has news that in addition to the cat mummies, there were also over 100 gilded wooden cat statues, and a bronze statue of Bastet, the cat goddess…

But while the outside world has been fawning over the feline discoveries, the Egyptian archaeologists themselves seemed far more excited about something else: mummified scarab beetles.

“The (mummified) scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told outlets including Reuters.

The mummified scarabs were found wrapped in linen inside a sealed stone coffin, decorated with paintings of yet more scarabs. Another collection of scarab mummies was also found inside a more smaller, square coffin, decorated with a single scarab painting.

According to Antonietta Catanzariti, curator of the Smithsonian Sackler Gallery exhibit Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt, ancient Egyptians saw cats as divine, but that doesn’t mean they worshiped them exactly.

“What they did is to observe their behavior, and create gods and goddesses in their image — much as they did with other animals, including dogs, crocodiles, snakes and bulls” she told NPR last year.

As well as cat and scarab mummies, the team also found mummified cobra and crocodiles, but mummified animals were by no means all they found.

There was also a collection of over 1,000 faience amulets, dedicated to gods including Anubis, Horus, and Isis:

And, as highlighted by Sabri Farag, Director General of Saqqara Necropolis, the team also found a collection of baskets and ropes made of papyri, along with 30 clay pots and human burials where a head rest, alabaster and bronze jars were found inside a wooden sarcophagus.

There were also writing tools, including ink pots and pens, along with several papyri written in demotic and heretic, plus chapters from the Book of the Dead.

The names of two women (Subek Sekt and Mafy) were also found engraved on a false door, along with a large number of decorated stone reliefs and other false doors, one of which refers to Ankh Mahur – one of the Old Kingdom Viziers.

The team also revealed that archaeologists have found another tomb nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that there is another, untouched tomb waiting to be investigated.

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Written by Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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