Gazelle Mummy

This gazelle mummy was probably raised at a temple specifically for the purpose of being mummified and used as a burial offering.

Archaeologists have uncovered cemeteries containing millions of animal mummies. They weren’t pets—they were raised in large quantities to be mummified, then sold as religious offerings. Most Egyptian gods were associated with animals, and many animals were buried in special tombs in honor of the gods associated with them. 

Gazelle Mummy. Photo: John Weinstein
Gazelle Mummy. Photo: John Weinstein

It was a common Egyptian tradition to include animal mummies in prestigious burials not only to honor the role that the pet played in the deceased’s life, but for various religious reasons.

Many species of animals were mummified in later periods of Egyptian history. These were not pets, but sacred animals that were raised in temple precincts. The animals were sacrificed, mummified almost as elaborately as humans, and offered in the temples by pious pilgrims as a substitute for more expensive bronze votives.

When a sufficient number had collected in the temple, the animal mummies would be buried by the priests in sacred animal cemeteries. Included were cats and dogs, ibises and falcons, and even fish, snakes and shrews.

Late New Kingdom to Third Intermediate Period, 20th-25th Dynasty, ca. 1186-656 BC. Now in the Field Museum of Natural History.

Gazelle of Lady Ankhshepenwepet, also called Neb(et)-imauemhat, singer of the Residence of Amun and attendant of Shepenwepet I.
This gazelle was found at the feet of Ankhshepenwepet’s coffins, though it was not mummified, the body of the gazelle had dried out naturally within the tomb at Deir el-Bahari.
Third Intermediate Period, c. 712–664 B.C.
Met Museum. 25.3.203