Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!

Animal Mummy Coffins of Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, the practice of mummifying animals became widespread in the first millenium B.C. Until the advent of Christianity, visitors to temples could buy animal mummy bundles as offerings to the gods. Wealthier pilgrims could also splurge on elaborate coffins shaped as creatures to hold these mummies, which ancient Egyptians probably believed represented the souls of the gods. Along with the sale of animal mummies, the production of lavish bronze and wooden coffins must have been an important source of revenue for temples.


The coffins below illustrate the wide array of animal forms taken by Egyptian gods. They will accompany 30 newly rediscovered animal mummies in The Brooklyn Museum's traveling exhibit Soulful Creatures:Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt. The exhibit's catalogue is available at


Egypt-Ibis-Mummy-CoffinThis bronze coffin dating to between 664 and 30 B.C. held an ibis bundle, the most common type of animal mummy in ancient Egypt.
Epgyptian-Cat-Mummy-CoffinThis wooden coffin held a complete mummified cat, an animal that became popular as a domestic pet in the first millennium B.C. and was associated with the goddess Bastet.
Egypt Hawk Mummy CoffinA bronze coffin, possibly from the animal necropolis at Saqqara, Egypt, was dedicated to the falcon god Horus.
Egypt Snake Mummy CoffinThis bronze cobra coffin with the head of a human wearing a crown represents the god Atum, who was thought to have swum in primordial waters before creating the world.
Egypt Crocodile Mummy CoffinBaby crocodile mummies in wooden coffins like this were used by ancient Egyptians seeking the help of the crocodile god Sobek.
Egypt Shrew Mummy CoffinA painted wooden coffin dating to between 664 B.C. and 332 B.C. depicts a shrew, a nocturnal animal, which represented Kenty-irty, a god with the ability see in darkness.



Ibis Shrew Animal Mummies
Messengers to the Gods