Egypt was old when most civilizations were still in their cradle. For those who are unfamiliar, Egypt is believed to have been united at around 3,100 BC, though there is still a fair amount of debate over the exact point in time when Pre-Dynastic Egypt came to a conclusion because of a lack of evidence. Regardless, if one counts until the establishment of the Roman province of Egypt under Augustus in 30 BC, this means that what we call ancient Egypt existed for more than three millennia. Due to this, the ancient Egyptians had a lot of time to build, which in turn, means that there are still a lot of ancient Egyptian sites waiting to be uncovered by modern archaeologists.
Recently, modern archaeologists entered a tomb in Saqqara, which served as the necropolis of the one-time capital Memphis. As a result, Saqqara is home to a wide range of incredible sites, which include multiple mastabas as well as the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser. The 4,500 year-old tomb that was uncovered isn’t as impressive as those monuments, but its contents were nonetheless very interesting.
What Stands Out about the New Tomb that Has Been Uncovered?
For starters. the tomb contains a number of animal mummies. In particular, it contains a pair of mummified scarabs, which possessed a fair amount of religious significance in ancient Egypt because of their connection with the rising sun Khepri. However, what stands out about the mummified scarabs is that they are a very unusual find, thus making them that much more valuable for our understanding of ancient Egyptian culture. Besides the mummified scarabs, there were also both mummified cobras and mummified crocodiles as well as dozens and dozens of mummified cats. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these animals possessed a fair amount of religious significance in ancient Egypt as well, seeing as how cobras were associated with one of the divine protectors of Egypt Wadjet while crocodiles were associated with a somewhat complicated figure in Sobek, who was both aggressive and animalistic but at the same time a protector of the innocent from evil. As for cats, well, suffice to say that is a very complicated topic because ancient Egypt was familiar with a number of feline-headed goddesses, which isn’t helped by the fact that they often had overlapping characteristics because of the continuous development of ancient Egyptian religion over the course of its existence.
With that said, it is important to note that the status of cats in ancient Egypt was much more complicated than the popular claim that they were worshiped there. Yes, cats were respected, but they weren’t respected for their own sake so much as their connection to ancient Egyptian religion. As a result, there is evidence to suggest that there were entire industries making mummified cats as well as other mummified animals of religious significance, which were so prolific that some people speculate that they were responsible for the extinction of ibises and baboons in Egypt. There was enough demand to support these industries because the ancient Egyptians used the mummified animals as offerings, so much so that at one point in time, the British actually bought huge loads of cat mummies because they wanted to use them as fertilizer.
However, while cats weren’t quite treated as gods in ancient Egypt, that doesn’t mean that the ancient Egyptians didn’t love them for the same reasons that we love our cats. We know this because modern archaeologists have actually uncovered ancient Egyptian pet cemeteries where cats and other pets were laid to rest in hopes that their owners would be reunited with them in the afterlife. Considering the effort that went into preserving them as well as the treasures that were sometimes buried with them, it is clear that there were people who loved the pets buried there very much once upon a time.
Regardless, archaeologists are still studying the uncovered tomb, probably for years and years to come. Moreover, what is interesting is that they found a door, which they are hoping will lead to a tomb that has never been touched by tomb raiders. Something that would be a particularly rare find because ancient Egyptians were just as into tomb raiding as pretty much everyone else. The whole thing is very exciting, not least because the mentioned tombs are potentially connected to a Fifth Dynasty Pharaoh named Userkaf who is mostly unknown for the time being.