Animal mummies

24 April 2008 until 1 March 2009

Animal mummiesAnimal mummies

Animal mummies gives young and old alike the chance to discover for themselves the world of Egyptian animals and their role in religion and ritual. Visitors can feel animal hides and guess which kinds of animals were known to the Egyptians, or play a scanner game to investigate what is inside the mummies. Egyptian animal statuettes, depictions of animals in Egyptian reliefs and on papyri, mounted animals and skeletons all show how animals looked in the age of the pharaohs. The mummies on display include cats, snakes, fish, crocodiles and a baboon. You can take a look inside a reconstructed mass grave of cat and ibis mummies or mummify a cat in the virtual world of a computer game.

Sacrificed to the gods

In a mummification tent, visitors can find out why and how the ancient Egyptians mummified certain types of animals, each type in a unique way. The process of embalming bulls, for example, was long and complicated, and the organs were often removed. Birds, in contrast, were simply dipped in a vat of resin or pitch. A few of the mummified animals were sacred animals or house pets that the Egyptians wished to preserve for all eternity, but most of them were sacrificed to the gods. 

X-rayed mummies 

In 1999-2003 all 73 animal mummies in the museum's collection were X-rayed at an academic medical centre in Amsterdam. Seven of the mummies were also recently CT scanned, specially for this exhibition. With a push of the button, visitors can switch from a view of the mummy to the corresponding scan or skeleton. Looking inside the mummies often reveals strange and wonderful surprises. Some of them hold no more than sand or a few small bones, for instance, while others contain more than one animal.

The exhibition was organized with assistance from Museum Naturalis (Leiden), the Allard Pierson Museum (Amsterdam) and the Academic Medical Centre (Amsterdam). The broadcasting company AVRO is the museum's media partner for this exhibition.