Animal Mummies as Offerings
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Often, animals were mummified and left in tombs or buried at temples in honor of specific Egyptian gods. Cat mummies were one of the most popular types of votive animal mummies; it is estimated that there may have been millions of cat mummies in Egypt. They were created in honor of the cat goddess, Bastet. Sacred cats were raised specifically to sacrifice to Bastet. These cats were often sacrificed by having their necks broken (see the xray of the cat mummy). While this may seem barbaric to us now, we must remember that the Egyptians believed the cats were receiving a tremendous honor. The Egyptians greatly revered cats; all domesticated and wild cats were well cared for, even in cases of drought and famine, and it was illegal to accidentally or intentionally harm any cat.
The small cat mummy in the gallery is a fake! However, it is an ancient fake. The Egyptians would purchase cat mummies at temples and cemetary sites to honor Bastet. Mummification, for a human or animal, was expensive. Faux cat mummies offered an inexpensive alternative to the real thing. The faux cat mummy is stuffed with material. You can compare the x-rays of the two mummies here.
Other popular votive animal mummies included hawks to honor Horus (see the x-ray of the hawk mummy) and crocodiles and large Nile fish to honor Sobek, the crocodile god associated with water, the Nile, and fertility.