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ummified birds were formerly buried with ancient Egyptians as sacrifices to gods like Horus, Ra, and Thot. In reality, millions of slaughtered birds were interred alongside the Egyptian mummies. But up until this point, it was unclear if the birds were domesticated, like cats, or whether they were wild animals. Within the ancient Egyptian culture, birds had quite an important significance.

One of Ancient Egypt’s most well-known icons is the Egyptian Bird. It served as a symbol for both the afterlife and rebirth, as well as a place for the soul to go. The Egyptians believed that after death, a person’s soul would be snatched up by a bird and brought to join Osiris on his throne.

This symbol also serves as a potent representation of the goddess Nekhbet, who was frequently shown donning a crown or headdress made of Egyptian birds.

According to recent studies that examined the chemical makeup of these birds, before they dug their burrows, they were untamed and wild animals living in the wild. One interesting aspect and question that comes up often is, how were the Egyptians able to catch so many birds?

“It’s an intense debate. If these birds were raised on an industrial scale this would have a significant economic impact, but if they were hunted this would mean a massive ecological burden on the bird population,”

Scientists analysing the birds
Researchers analyzing the ancient bird (Source: CNRS)

The bones and feeding habits of the birds helped the researchers to unravel the enigma. The researchers at the Musée des Confluences in Lyon also examined the embalmed skins of 20 ibises and other birds. A diverse diet developed.

It was not a diet that would have been feasible for an animal to eat while being held in captivity.

Since ibises were likely a permanent local population in the Nile Valley, the study’s findings imply that birds of prey frequently went outside of that region. However, they did so more frequently in quest of food than the Egyptians who mummified the animals.

The remains of birds at different stages of life were also discovered by the researchers, suggesting that they were in some way raised in captivity. Some texts from that era also make reference to this practice.

However, there is evidence of wild bird hunting in ancient Egyptian art, and a 2019 research hypothesized that they were migratory birds that were briefly tamed.

According to the latest study, the birds were wild.

In light of the fact that the Egyptians caught millions of such raptors and ibises, experts came to the conclusion that they had a sophisticated hunting network.

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