Ibis-Form Shrew Mummy
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
These four animal mummies are in ibis-related shapes but different wrapping styles. The CT scans and X-rays shown here reveal that two of these mummies are indeed ibises, as expected, but that of the two others, one contains snakes and the other contains shrews.
Scientific examination has revolutionized scholars’ understanding of the most basic data available in analyzing animal mummies.
Animal remains (Crocidura flavescens, C. nana, C. olivieri, or C. religiosa), linen
Dynasty 26 to Dynasty 30
4 3/4 x 3 1/2 x 19 5/8 in. (12.1 x 8.9 x 49.8 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
The object is an anthropomorphically shaped mummy with a flattened body that tapers toward the pointed end onto which dummy feet are attached; a characteristic shape for hawk/raptor mummies. The body, from the shoulder to the feet, is covered with a single piece of light colored, fine, plain weave linen. A thin strip of linen with dyed dark brown edging extends from the bottom of the wig to the heel and covers the seam where the outer wrapping crosses in the back. Alternating light and dyed dark brown strips of doubled linen make up the wig/headdress that form a horseshoe shape on the back of the head and run vertically down either side of the head to the chest. A recessed area and unfinished edge in the head indicates that there was once a facial ornament (cartonnage, metal, wood) that is now missing. Fine cording is visible crisscrossing the bottom of the feet. The mummy contains skeletal remains of two shrews.
This item is not on view
Ibis-Form Shrew Mummy, 664-332 B.C.E. Animal remains (Crocidura flavescens, C. nana, C. olivieri, or C. religiosa), linen, 4 3/4 x 3 1/2 x 19 5/8 in. (12.1 x 8.9 x 49.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1987E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum (Gavin Ashworth,er), 37.1987E_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg)
overall, 37.1987E_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph (Gavin Ashworth, photographer), 2012
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Why did some animal shaped coffins have different animals inside?
There could be a couple reasons. Falcon-shaped coffins could have a shrew inside as a stand in for a mongoose or ichneumon, like a cat can stand for a lion. The representative of the mongoose was meant to protect the falcon from snakes.
If a priest puts a shrew in your ibis mummy does Thoth still get the message?
The priest sure wants you to think so!
The answer, according to actual Egyptian beliefs, is maybe. The soul of the mummified shrew would go to live in the realm of the gods where Thoth would also be. It wouldn't be as direct a line as sending an ibis though.
Tell me more.
Animal mummies are some of the most numerous artifacts from ancient Egypt. Cemeteries associated with major temples were where millions of animals were buried.
Animal mummies served an important religious function in ancient Egypt. People believed that the animals' souls could act as messengers and carry with them hopes and prayers to the gods quickly and effectively.