Washington: Egyptians may have been breeding cats specifically to mummify and offer as sacrifices to god more than two thousand years ago, a new research has found.
Italian researchers arrived at the conclusion after they examined a mummified kitten which was believed to have been bought by the National Archaeological Museum in Parma as part of an Egyptian collection in the 18th century.
The team did a radiography -- similar to an X-ray – of the mummy, to see under the wrappings, finding the small cat was actually a kitten, only about 5 or 6 months old.
The way it was positioned while being mummified suggest that the kitten was sacrificed to used an offering to god, the researchers said.
"The fact that the cat was young suggests that it was one of those bred specifically for mummification," study author Giacomo Gnudi, a professor at the University of Parma, was quoted as saying by LiveScience.
The cat was wrapped as tightly as possible, and had been placed in a sitting position before mummification, similar to the seated cats depicted in hieroglyphics from those period between 332 BC and 30 BC.
To make the cat take up as little space as possible, the embalmers fractured some of the cat`s bones, including a backbone at the base of the spine to position the tail as
close to the body as possible, and ribs to make the front limbs sit closer to the body.
A hole in the cat`s skull may have been the cause of death, or it could have been created during the mummification process to drain the skull`s contents.
"The arrangement of the mummy`s wrappings is intricate, with various geometrical patterns. The eyes are depicted in black ink on small round pieces of linen bandage," the
"The cat skeleton is also complete, meaning that it is one of the most valuable types."
The cat mummies from that period are common, especially kittens, the researchers said.
"Kittens, aged 2 to 4 months, were sacrificed in huge numbers because they were more suitable for mummification," they wrote in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.