Mummified remains of a snake



Accession Number
EC308
Current Location
House of Death (ground floor), Animals case
Object Type
Organic remains, Reptile, Reptile mummy, Snake mummy
Material
Mummified remains (Animal remains)
Provenance
Egypt
Measurements
Length: 165mm | Depth: 56mm | Width: 84mm | Weight: 310g
Number of Elements
1
Animal
Snake

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Description

The Egypt Centre houses a small collection of animal and human remains, the vast majority of which remain in storage. While it is often possible to determine the animal which was mummified by the Egyptians, a number of packages are quite ambiguous. One such example from the Egypt Centre is labelled EC308 which was originally entered on the museum catalogue as "mummified animal, possibly human". The object takes the form of an oval package, tightly wrapped in linen bandages. It was probably purchased by Wellcome from the Rustafjaell collection. Upon x-raying the object, courtesy of the veterinary practice at Pets at Home, Swansea Retail Parc Tawe, it was revealed that the package actually contained a coiled mummified snake. The snake was so well preserved that it was still possible to see its head. It was also notable that the snake had been severed half way along the length of its body. This may have been the fatal blow to the snake before it was mummified, although x-rays do not enable us to come to any conclusions on this matter. Measuring the length of the snake revealed that it was almost 800mm (quite long for mummified specimens). The snake was later examined by the Swansea University's 3D scanner in the engineering department in conjunction with the television programme 'Rhys jones' Wildlife Patrol' Series 2, Episode 1, broadcast on 31st March 2014 7.30, BBC One Wales. Rhys Jones identified the snake as an Egyptian cobra. Snakes were particularly mummified in Thebes from the Late Period through to the Roman Period of Egypt when they were seen as being one of the many sacred animals of the god Amun. Snakes were also associated with rebirth and regeneration because of their ability to shed their skin and were also associated with the god Atum of Heliopolis, the primordial creator god of Egypt. Some were simply wrapped in bandages, others placed in elaborate bronze boxes, and subsequently offered to Atum in the temples or associated cemeteries. One particular cemetery, that of Amara West, contained a 'shrine' with a series of snake burials associated with it. While they were not mummified, the containers contained the skeletons of many snakes, believed to be pythons. It is likely that these snakes represent some kind of unknown Nubian snake cult.

Bibliography

Johnston, Richard, Richard Thomas, Rhys Jones, Carolyn Graves-Brown, Wendy Goodridge, and Laura North 2020. Evidence of diet, deification, and death within ancient Egyptian mummified animals. Scientific Reports 10 (article no. 14113). Further Reading: Andrews, C.l (1998) Egyptian Mummies. BM Press: London. Pgs. 82-7. Ikram, S. (2004) Beloved Beasts: Animal Mummies from Ancient Egypt. SCA Press: Cairo. Ikram, S. ed. (2005) Divine Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt. AUC Press: Cairo. Ikram, S. & Dodson, A. (1998) The Mummy in Ancient Egypt. Thames and Hudson: London. Pgs. 131-6. Shinnie, P. L. (1951) 'Preliminary Report on the Excavations at 'Am?rah West', 1948-49 and 1949-50'. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 37, Pgs. 5-11. Taylor, J. H. (2001) Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt. BM Press: London. Pgs. 244-63.

Last modified: 23 Oct 2020

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