Researchers at the British Museum have used a new technology called neutron tomography to reveal the contents of six votive animal coffins, made of copper alloy, without having to open them. The technique involved sending beams of neutrons through each object to create a 2D or 3D image of the organic material inside.
One box, topped by the figure of a lizard, was found to contain the bones of a lizard, including an intact skull. Three of the coffins also contained lead, which may have been used to strengthen the boxes, or to help to distribute the weight of the contents, or even to provide magical protection for the mummies inside.
In a separate piece of research, a French team has analysed the bones of canid mummies found in the catacombs at Saqqara, and revealed that both dogs and wolves were buried there. The team mapped out the shape of the skulls of the deceased animals, and compared them to a wide range of modern canids, including domestic breeds, feral, and wild animals. The mummified ‘dogs’ included African golden wolves and Near Eastern grey wolves, as well as foxes, jackals, and domestic dogs. The mummies may have been votive offerings to the god Anubis, whose temple was associated with the catacombs.
Image: British Museum