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Sunday, 1 April, 2001, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Egypt seeks money for mummies
Hawk mummy/Anna-Marie Kellen
Even mummies need mummies: good parents sought
By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

Have you ever been fascinated by ancient mummies, but found full-sized pharaohs too scary?


Pet mummies are particularly nice because you get an idea of Ancient Egyptians' love for their animals

Selima Ikram, Co-director, Animal Mummy Project
Perhaps you'd prefer something smaller - a dog which is not just for life, but for the afterlife too?

Well, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo has the answer. It is encouraging people to "adopt" its mummies of ancient Egyptian animals in an effort to help preserve them for posterity.

On offer over the internet are everything from cat mummies to crocodiles and the now extinct sacred ibis bird.

In return for payments - ranging from $50 for "co-parenting" a mummified snake to $800 for being sole adopter of an ancient crocodile - "parents" get a photograph and information pack.

Preserving pets

The money will pay for the mummies to be X-rayed and kept in special cases to prevent them deteriorating further.

Cat mummy/Anna-Marie Kellen
For romance, approach the cat mummy
"Animal mummies are very, very important because we can learn not only about the ancient environment - many of these animals are now extinct in Egypt - but also about Ancient Egyptians' beliefs," said Salima Ikram, co-director of the Animal Mummy Project and the driving force behind the "adopt-a-mummy" concept.

"Pet mummies are particularly nice because you get an idea of Ancient Egyptians' love for their animals," she added.

"If something isn't done they'll be lost for ever," says her co-director, Nasry Iskander.

Experts say the animal mummies offer invaluable information about ordinary life in ancient Egypt, as well as the environment, flora and fauna of the time and even veterinary practices.

Cheated pilgrims

The ancient Egyptians made mummies of their favourite pets, including dogs, cats, monkeys and gazelles to take the animals with them into the afterlife.

Baboon mummy X-ray/Anna-Marie Kellen
An X-ray of this baboon mummy proved it was genuine, but some were fakes to fool the unwary
They also offered mummified animals as offerings to particular gods.

"People used to purchase animal mummies made by priests as prayers - like lighting candles in a church," says Dr Ikram.

"If you wanted to be lucky in love, you made a cat mummy offering to Bastet, the cat goddess of love."

But X-rays have revealed some of the mummies to be ancient fakes, containing only rags or pieces of animal, which Dr Ikram says were "probably sold to unsuspecting pilgrims."

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See also:

15 Mar 01 | Health
Secrets hidden in mummies' skulls
29 Nov 00 | Middle East
Virtual mummy tour
11 Nov 00 | Middle East
Tutankhamun to undergo DNA tests
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