Researchers have recently surveyed an ancient Egyptian catacomb, revealing more than anyone expected: 8 million animals, most dogs, have been accounted for. Paul Nicholson and his team’s discovery is raising an intriguing argument as to what happened to these once lovable pooches. The dogs, discovered underneath an area housing Egypt’s oldest pyramid, were found mummified usually next to their rightful owner, although many of the dogs discovered were found literally in piles.
While many speculate dogs were buried with their owner for comfort when moving to the next plane of existence, scientists believe dogs would have the ability to communicate with Anubis in the afterlife, thereby making a human’s transition into the next world smoother. Nicholson and his archaeological team have been working in and around the Saqqara dig site since 2009, located in the same proximity as Egypt’s largest pyramid.
During their six-year journey, they’ve managed to uncover empty tombs and tunnels which ultimately led to mummified remains of dogs and humans — often in piles — and other animals, many which predate 750 BC. An extrapolation of dog remains conducted by Nicholson and his team may help further research into how dogs breed and identify the sex of the mummified dog remains. Some speculate dogs were bred specifically for Anubis’s following, although the way the remains were discarded suggests Anubis may have wanted to surround his minions with characteristics similar to his own.
Oddly enough, the catacomb of dogs was discovered in the 19th century. It remained a one-off discovery until the Cardiff University team worked diligently to unearth more of Egypt’s terrain. Had the catacomb containing mummified dogs been discovered any sooner, Egypt could have seen tremendous tourist revenue as individual sales for urns, signage, and other mementos would’ve skyrocketed.
Nicholson, in a statement to International Business Times, didn’t believe the dogs were abused physically but may have died of starvation or may have dehydrated being away from their mothers. Since the exact average age of these wrapped dogs is unknown, science will need to determine more accurate causes of death. With fables diluting archaeology, like how Jesus Christ had two kids with a harlot, it’s best that lengthy studies run their course before accurate conclusions can be drawn — especially where dogs are concerned.
The complete study conducted by Nicholson and and his team is available at Cambridge University’s Journals, available for purchase online. The project is expected to continue for several more years and will probably reveal millions of dogs.
[Photo by Marco di Lauro / Getty Images]