Long While For Crocodiles

In a tomb along the Nile, 

beware the mummies' bite.

At first glance, you may think you're looking at a picture of living crocodiles moving stealthily through mud.

But the animals above are mummies, possibly dead for more than 2,500 years and preserved in a ritual that most honored Sobek, a fertility deity worshipped in ancient Egypt.

The mummies were among 10 adult crocodiles, probably from two different species, the remains of which were unearthed recently from a tomb at Qabbat al-Hawa on the west bank of the Nile River.

The discovery was detailed in the journal PLoS ONE.

The crocodiles have long played an important role in Egyptian culture.In addition to being linked to a deity, it was a food source, and parts of the animal,like its fat, were used as medicine to treat body pains, stiffness and even balding.

Mummified animals, including ibises, cats and baboons are relatively common finds in Egyptian tombs. Other mummified crocodile remains have been dug up, but most have been juveniles and hatchlings.

The crocodile described in this study were in good condition. ''Most of the time I'm dealing with fragments, with broken things,'' said Bea De Cupere, an archaeozoologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and an author of the study.

''To hear you have 10 crocodiles in a tomb. That's special.''

She was called to the Qubbat al-Hawa site by a research team led by Alejandro Jimenez Serrano, an Egyptologist in Spain.

In 2018, researchers uncovered seven small tombs under a Byzantine-era trash dump. In one of the tombs - sandwiched between the dump site and four human burials believed to be from around 2,100 B.C. - were the mummified crocodiles. [ Sam Jones ]


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