Ancient Pet Cemetery Discovered In Egypt
A team of researchers from the Polish Academy of Sciences, led by Marta Osypińska, found a pet cemetery while excavating an ancient trash dump by Berenike.
In an article they published in the academic journal Antiquity, the researchers describe the burial site as being about two thousand years old. That means the burials were contemporary with the period when Egypt was controlled by the Roman Empire.
The cemetery consists of about one hundred animals, most of them cats. The scientists counted eighty-six cats, nine dogs and two monkeys. All of their skeletons were intact.
The site is interesting because it was clearly set aside just for pets. Two of the cats wore necklaces made of ostrich shells. Three other cats, as well as one of the monkeys, wore ornamental iron collars. And they were not buried along with human remains.
The cemetery is also interesting in that none of the animals show signs of disease. They were also not mummified. This runs contrary to the norm in animal burial sites found elsewhere in Egypt. “The Berenike cemetery,” wrote the researchers, “reflects different intentions and cultural practices compared to the Nile Valley animal deposits.”
Steven Sidebotham, the director of the dig, says that the gesture of burying the pets was especially remarkable considering the extreme conditions in which the people lived. “[Berenike was] way out on the edge of nowhere. What makes this unique is [that despite] the very rough circumstances in which these people are living, they still manage to find the time and effort to have companion animals with them.”