Animal mummies investigated

From 11 December through 9 January you can learn all there is to know about animal mummies at the Allard Pierson.

To what species of crocodile does the crocodile dummy belong? Does the ‘mummy of a cat’ really contain a cat? How did these animals live in ancient Egypt? And how did they meet their end? Last summer, these questions and others like them inspired the launch of a special study. Thirteen animal mummies from ancient Egypt held at the Allard Pierson were sent to Amsterdam UMC for a thorough investigation. The mummies, scans and findings are the focus of the exhibition Animal Mummies, on display at the Allard Pierson during the Christmas holidays.

Animal mummies tell us so much about life in ancient Egypt. There are various reasons why animals were mummified. Some were seen as representatives of deities, while others were buried as food or as pets for the deceased. In Animal Mummies Investigated you can view thirteen animal mummies as well as the first findings of the study: the CT scans made at Amsterdam UMC, the 3D models and much more besides.

Animal mummies

The ancient Egyptians mummified animals for various reasons. Some animals were seen as ‘manifestations’ of a particular deity. They were carefully looked after and worshipped, and then buried like kings once they died. A second group consists of food mummies. These animals, or parts of animals, were mummified and placed in graves as food. The deceased was therefore symbolically provided with food in the afterlife. A third group are domestic animals. Just like people today, the ancient Egyptians grew fond of their pets and had them mummified and buried with them. The final and largest group consists of ‘votive offerings’, gifts in the form of mummies. Animal mummies were offered to deities as signs of worship or in the hope of a favour. The animals for these mummies were raised in and around temples before being killed, mummified and purchased by believers who offered them to a deity.


The Allard Pierson started to study animal mummies in the summer of 2021. It was prompted by the acquisition of a young crocodile in 2018. Like the other twelve animal mummies held at the Allard Pierson, this crocodile had never been examined. That is now changing. Together with the Amsterdam UMC, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi in Belém, Brazil, and the 4D Research Lab at the University of Amsterdam, the Allard Pierson is now trying to gather as much information as possible and make it available to both museum visitors and scholars.

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