The millions of dogs that joined Anubis in the afterlife
Few cultures’ identities are as closely tied to burial practices as the ancient Egyptians. With a pantheon of gods to please when entering the afterlife, Egyptians developed amazingly elaborate interment practices, most famously the mummification of not only humans, but of a wide variety of animals, from cats to birds to around eight million dogs. Most amazingly, that last figure can be attributed to a single series of catacombs at Saqqara, south of Cairo, which was dedicated to the jackal-headed god of the afterlife, Anubis.
The mummified dogs were likely part of a long tradition, assembled over years as gifts from many families of the deceased who wished to offer Anubis a gift. There were a number of poetic associations at play here, such as the idea of dogs running through the desert evoking the dead on their passage to the afterlife. Dogs were often found near graveyards, further cementing the god’s role as master of embalming and travel.
Gathering this many dogs, even over many years, would have been no small feat. It’s believed that many of the puppies, especially the younger ones, were raised and bread specifically for the purpose of mummification. X-rays didn’t reveal signs of ritualistic neck-breaking as one would find with mummified cats, but there still seemed to be some kind of industry and planning at play here to possibly end up with this many animals.
Gifts beyond preserved dogs and puppies
The gifts to Anubis extended beyond dogs and puppies, as mummified jackals, foxes, falcons, cats and even a fossilized marine-vertebrate were found in the catacombs. Some of these offerings may have been considered canine-enough for Anubis’ taste, while others may have been connected to a sense of identity as ancient practices faced influences and threats from other religious practices in the world. Mummifying animals for the gods was a core concept in Egypt, as demonstrated by the enormous number of animals at this site.
Source: 8 Million Dog Mummies Found in Mass Grave by Laura Geggel, Discovery News