Archeologists Open 6,000-Year-Old Tombs In Egypt, Find Dozens Of Mummified Cats Inside

A recent discovery at the Egyptian necropolis of Saqqara has yielded “dozens” of cat mummies and several rare, preserved scarab beetles. According to a report from the Guardian, the mummified animals were found in seven sarcophagi, including a few that are believed to be more than 6,000-years-old.

In a statement, Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany said that the coffins were found by a team of archeologists who started excavation work at the ancient site in April. Out of the sarcophagi, three of them were used to bury cats, while one of the other four remains unopened as of the moment.

Mohamed Youssef, director of the Saqqara area at Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, explained that the unopened sarcophagus dates back to the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, which lasted from 2500 to 2350 BC. He added that archeologists are planning to look further into the tomb, which stood out for having an intact facade and door. Per the Guardian, this could mean its contents are likely untouched.

Along with the discovery of the cat mummies, the researchers also found about 100 wooden cat statues, as well as a single bronze statue representing the Egyptian cat goddess of fertility and motherhood, Bastet. As explained by the Daily Mail, it wasn’t uncommon for cats to be mummified in the same way as humans were, due to their status as a sacred animal in Ancient Egypt. The publication added that animals were mummified for a number of reasons — worship as representations of gods, offerings to said gods, and the belief that the creatures could “live on in the afterlife” and bless humans with gifts of food.

According to the Daily Mail, the mummified scarabs represent the first of their kind to be discovered at the site, which is located on the edge of Saqqara’s King Userkaf pyramid complex. The preserved beetles were found in a smaller sarcophagus and were described by Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, as “something really a bit rare.”

“A couple of days ago, when we discovered those coffins, they were sealed coffins with drawings of scarabs. I never heard about them before,” Waziri said.

Aside from the scarab and cat mummies and the cat statues, the archeologists also discovered several other artifacts, including gilded statues representing certain animals or animal features, canopic jars, amulets, papyri baskets, writing tools, and wooden cobra and crocodile sarcophagi. As hinted by the Daily Mail, the discoveries could be part of Egypt’s continued push to revive its tourism sector in the years after former president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011.