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In Alsace, five Egyptian animal mummies aged 2,000 to 3,000 years old reveal their secrets under scanner

Five thousand-year-old Egyptian mummies of cats, ibises, falcons and fish from the collection of the University of Strasbourg revealed their secrets on Monday, x-rayed for the first time in a veterinary clinic, under the direction of a laboratory of 'archeology.

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In Alsace, five Egyptian animal mummies aged 2,000 to 3,000 years old reveal their secrets under scanner

Five thousand-year-old Egyptian mummies of cats, ibises, falcons and fish from the collection of the University of Strasbourg revealed their secrets on Monday, x-rayed for the first time in a veterinary clinic, under the direction of a laboratory of 'archeology.

Acquired about a century ago by the Alsatian University, these five mummies measuring between 10 and 30 centimeters were x-rayed, in the premises of the Strasbourg AgoraVeto clinic, under the leadership of the universities of Strasbourg and Haute-Alsace. .

“They have never been studied before, we want to know if there are animals inside and in what condition,” explains in the preamble Cassandre Hartenstein, project manager and Egyptologist at the Archimède laboratory of ancient history and archeology. at the University of Strasbourg.

“All the mummies found do not necessarily contain whole animals, or even no animals at all,” explains Frédéric Colin, curator of the Egyptian collection at the University of Strasbourg. Until then, everything we know about it is based on the descriptions present in the inventories, at the time of their acquisition.

With fifteen years of experience on human and animal mummies, radiologist Samuel Mérigeaud shares his first hypotheses on what is hidden under the strips of these 2,000 to 3,000 year old mummies: “The fish is whole and well preserved”, he observes while, on the other side of the glass, the imposing machine finishes scanning the first mummy. “Given the appearance, I would rather lean towards a Nile perch,” he specifies.

In addition to the fish, one of the two cat mummies and that of the falcon are in an excellent state of preservation. “We broke their necks,” notes the radiologist, pointing out the gap between the skull and the spine of the feline and the bird. “From my point of view, it is when the animal is not whole that it is the most interesting,” enthuses Frédéric Colin, while the other cat mummy only reveals a pelvis, a spine and an unusually arranged bone, related to a small femur.

The practices of the Egyptians during the time of the pharaohs raise many questions. “The objective now is to understand the gestures of the embalmers, the mummification processes of the animals thanks to the state in which they are,” specifies Professor Colin.

“The most exciting part is yet to come,” concludes Cassandre Hartenstein. In the coming weeks, we will precisely date the mummies with carbon 14 and probably take DNA samples.

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