Ancient Egyptian Tomb of Sacred Animals Including Mummified Lion Cubs, Cobras and Crocodiles Discovered

Archaeologists have discovered a huge cache of Ancient Egyptian artefacts—including mummified lion cubs, cobras and crocodiles—at the famous Saqqara necropolis, according to the country's Ministry of Antiquities.

Saqqara is a vast ancient burial ground—located south of Cairo—that once served the Ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.

An archaeological mission led by Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, uncovered the artifacts near the base of Saqqara's Bastet Temple—which is dedicated to the worship of cats, AFP reported.

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany said the cache includes 75 wooden and bronze cat statues of different sizes; mummified cats inside wooden boxes decorated with hieroglyphics; and wooden statues of other creatures, including an apis bull, a mongoose, an ibis, a falcon and the Egyptian god Anubis in the form of an animal.

In addition, archaeologists found stone sculptures of scarab beetles; crocodile statues with the remains of small mummified crocodiles inside; and a collection of statues depicting Ancient Egyptian gods. These include 73 bronze statuettes of the god Osiris; six wooden statues of Ptah-Soker; 11 statues of the lioness god Sekhmet; and others depicting the goddess Neith.

The researchers also uncovered a relic featuring the name of King Psamtik I—who ruled Egypt between 664 and 610 B.C.—cobra statues; amulets; several wooden and clay mummy masks; and a collection of papyri decorated with illustrations of the goddess Tawert.

El-Enany described the find as a "museum by itself" due to the fact that hundreds of objects were found. The artifacts date to Egypt's 26th Dynasty, which ruled the kingdom between 664 and 525 B.C. right up until it was conquered by the Persians.

Among the most notable finds were the five mummies of big cats, which most likely represent lion cubs, according to initial investigations. However, more research needs to be carried out to confirm this. El-Enany noted during a press conference that the skeleton of a lion had previously been uncovered near this necropolis.

cat mummy
One of the mummified cats discovered at Saqqara. Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

The latest cache is not the first set of artifacts to be uncovered by the archaeological mission at the Bubastian necropolis. Last year, researchers uncovered a mummified scarab beetles, cobras and crocodiles, in addition to the tomb of a royal priest from the Fifth Dynasty known as "Wahtye."

The Ancient Egyptians mummified all manner of animals, for a variety of reasons. Sally Wasef, from Griffith University in Australia, previously told Newsweek.

"The list is really long, you can name most of the animals and birds known to ancient Egyptians as getting mummified at one stage," she said. "Some were pets and in the same time gods like cats, dogs, falcons, monkeys. Some were just god's incarnations on earth like snakes, crocodiles, cows, etc."

By far the most common animal to be mummified by the Egyptians was the sacred ibis—which were sacrificed in vast numbers. The largest known number of mummified sacred ibises can be found at the Tuna el-Gebel necropolis in Middle Egypt, which houses roughly four million of these mummies.