Anubis, the god of death, was worshipped in Ancient Egypt. The catacombs next to his temple in Saqqara held millions of mummified dogs, ranging in age from puppy to adult – presumably gifts from his worshippers, according to Live Science.
People gave mummified dogs as gifts to Anubis, god of death. KhymHarrison/iStock/Thinkstock
Not much is known about the animal cults of Ancient Egypt. The practice of dog mummification during that time was discovered in 1897 by Jacques de Morgan, a French archaeologist. Archaeological evidence suggests that the practice was a large part of the economy in Ancient Egypt. “When you go to Saqqara now, you see an area of attractive desert with the pyramids sticking up and one or two of the prominent monuments” associated with animal cults, Paul Nicholson, a professor of archaeology at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom told Live Science. “It would have been a busy place… a permanent community of people living there supported by the animal cults.” This likely involved merchants, dream interpreters, tour guides, priests and people who would breed dogs for the purpose of gifting the gods. Nicholson told Live Science that there is no evidence the dogs were killed by physical action, but probably passed away from dehydration or starvation.
The mummification of the dogs, Nicholson told Live Science, was likely viewed as “expressions of gratitude that the gods would appreciate.” Some of the dogs were hours to days old, while others were advanced in age.
Archaeologists also found the mummified remains of other animals, including jackals, cats, falcons, foxes and mongoose, Live Science reports. The majority of the “gifts” to Anubis, however, were dogs.