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Death in Ancient Egypt

Mummy of an ibis

Length: 43.200 cm

EA 53938

Mummy of an ibis

From: Abydos, Egypt
Date: Roman Period, after 30 BC

An ibis is a kind of wading bird with a long curved beak to dig around for food in the river mud. The Egyptian god Thoth’s name means ‘he who is like the ibis’, and Thoth was often shown with a man’s body and the head of an ibis. Thoth was the scribe of the gods, god of the moon, and in charge of writing, maths and language. He also helped judge the dead (see ‘Weighing the Heart’).

In the Late Period, it became very popular to mummify animals and leave them as presents (called ‘offerings’) to the gods. Many thousands of ibis were mummified as offerings to Thoth. They were wrapped in bandages and some were put into pottery jars. This one has been wrapped in a careful pattern, and is very well preserved.