The Slatest

Hopefully These Mummy Crocodiles Aren’t Too Upset About Being Disentombed

Huge crocodile mummies … previously undisturbed tomb … I’m sure it’s all totally fine!

A man with a brush leans closely over the mummified skull of a crocodile that is partially buried in red dirt and rock.
Probably nothing to worry about with this guy toward the bottom of the frame here. Most likely. Handout/Belgian Institute of NA/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images

What’s this now that’s been published in the Jan. 18 issue of the scientific journal PLOS ONE?

Newly discovered crocodile mummies of variable quality from an undisturbed tomb at Qubbat al-Hawā (Aswan, Egypt)

That’s certainly—well, let’s look into it a little more closely.

In this paper, we report on an exceptional deposit of crocodiles found during the 2019 excavations in an undisturbed tomb. The finds include five more or less complete, large animals as well as five skulls of also relatively large crocodiles.

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Huge crocodile mummies … previously undisturbed tomb … hmm. To be sure, biological and archaeological research is not only essential—it’s a critical part of how we understand being human. Let us, perhaps, only hope that no one treated this tomb with disrespect before it was opened from an ancient slumber.

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Excavations carried out since 2018 in the eastern area of Qubbat al-Hawā have revealed seven new intact burial chambers discovered under a thick Byzantine rubbish dump.

OK, the Byzantines put garbage on it for like a thousand years. That is not friendly or neighborly. Do these specimens have any additional reasons to be upset?

The left pubis [of Crocodile #11] has a bony inflammation on both the internal and external side reminiscent of osteomyelitis.

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An estimated 2,500 years of bony inflammation irritating one’s pubis is, simply put, not a good scene. That is going to be an ornery creature if it is jolted back to life when lightning strikes the laboratory where it’s being stored, at midnight, under the light of the so-called “necropolis moon.”

What else? Do we have any idea how these crocodiles might have been captured and killed?

A famous account by Herodotus (II, 70) mentions a technique in which a partial carcass of a pig was attached to a large hook [50]. The fisherman, standing on the shore, would then beat a restrained live pig to make it scream to attract crocodiles.

Wow, just a really normal situation from start to finish here. So, in any case, the point is that apparently these animals were likely desiccated by being buried, then mummified using strips of linen or palm leaves, then entombed at a site that is possibly associated with the cult of the crocodile fertility god Sobek. And what the academics studying them are hoping to find out is—okay, you’re still talking:

 In retrospect, one may also wonder if the reptile eggs also came from an animal that used the crocodile’s body cavity as a living space.

Pass. No.

 Crocodile #2 has no head.

That will be all from you, scientific journal PLOS ONE.

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