The animal mummies
Inside Ancient Egypt exhibition
While visitors are understandably enthralled by the 23 human mummies in this massive area, the 31 mummified animals that are also on display give us additional insight into the civilization’s religious practices. The ancient Egyptians believed that their gods and goddesses could take animal as well as human form, which is why these particular creatures -- cats, falcons, gazelles, a baby alligator -- were painstakingly preserved for the afterlife. “These animals were used as religious offerings,” Golembiewski explains. “For instance, mummified cats were offered to the goddesses Bastet and Sekhmet, and mummified falcons were offered to the god Horus.” Some scholars, meanwhile, believe that the critters were mummified for both heartwarming and less-than-charming reasons: to become the beloved eternal pets of their owners, or serve as food for the dead.