Some ‘hawk’ mummies are the remains of birds who were bred and lived in captivity. Many hawk mummy bundles contain only partial skeletons, or none at all. Most animals, however, may have been seen rather as heralds who entered the Afterlife grateful to the sponsor who paid for their care and feeding and embalming. They were very often given as Votive Offerings. Hawks and falcons represented the god Horus and his mother and aunt, Isis and Nephthys.
The Ancient Egyptians mummified millions of animals and birds, but, perhaps because the reason behind this practice was so obvious to them, they never wrote down why they did it. Though some pets were mummified, most animal mummies were animals raised in temple precincts for eventual sacrifice and mummification. Specially chosen animals were the avatars of gods, such as the sacred hawk at Edfu or the Apis bull at Memphis.
The ancient Egyptians not only applied embalming to dead humans but also to many animals (cats, dogs, birds, snakes and crocodiles) for votives and ritual purposes. The god Anubis also known as Inpu (the jackal) was representing the god of death, embalming and mummification.
Ptolemaic Period, ca. 305-30 BC (left), Roman Period (right), ca. 30 BC – 395 AD. From Saqqara. Now in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.