Penn Museum, Classroom 2
3620 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Dr. Edward Bleiberg is Curator of Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Brooklyn Museum.
Animal mummies constitute the largest class of object the ancient Egyptians created. Millions of mummies are preserved from at least thirty-one different cemeteries. Yet the Egyptians never wrote an explanation of the role that animal mummies played in their religion, culture, or society.
Though animal mummies are the most numerous of Egyptian artifacts, they are among the least well understood objects found in Egyptian collections. This talk proposes an explanation of why the Egyptians made votive animal mummies and what they did with them in rituals. It furthermore explores the social and economic aspects of animal mummy making through the documents preserved from the ibis sanctuary in Saqqara. Finally, through a rapid review of Hebrew, Greek, Roman, and early Christian attitudes to animal cults in Egypt, it suggests why we moderns have difficulty understanding this peculiarly ancient Egyptian cultural practice.