An ancient cat mummy scam organized by unscrupulous priests
November 6, 2019 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Inside Ancient Egyptian Cat Mummy, Archaeologists Find the Remains of 3 Cats (Live Science): It's unclear why the Rennes cat mummy (image) held the partial remains of three different cats, but some researchers believe that it was part of an "ancient scam organized by unscrupulous priests," Nicolas said in the statement. Priests could have "resorted to less elaborate preparations, impossible to detect by sight" for rituals which "gradually lead to mummies whose cat shape represents a visible reality beyond the real content," he told Live Science. But Nicolas and his team don't think that's necessarily true. "We believe on the contrary that there are innumerable ways to make animal mummies," he said in the statement. This transparent 3D-printed version (image) of the cat mummy shows the textile ball and bones from multiple cats. posted by not_the_water (22 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Three cats in a mummy suit?
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:12 AM on November 6 [7 favorites]

Rennes is one of the strangest burial sites I've seen in some time. I have no idea how these people got their cats wedged into their sarcophagi, or why.
posted by WCityMike at 8:12 AM on November 6 [39 favorites]

Were the cats supposed to be specific cats? Like buried with an owner or something? Maybe a charitable interpretation is that the priests didn't want to kill a cat, so they threw some already-dead cats together to create a mummy and leave a living kitty alone.
posted by jzb at 8:23 AM on November 6

"gradually lead to mummies whose cat shape represents a visible reality beyond the real content,"

Cat-tleship Potemkin?
posted by selfnoise at 8:24 AM on November 6 [2 favorites]

I say using 3 half cats is a scam uncovered by scanners said cats were wedged into.
posted by clavdivs at 8:35 AM on November 6 [2 favorites]


But, surely there are easier ways to create a scam than finding three times as many real dead cats as advertised. It sure sounds like something more subtle is going on here.
posted by eotvos at 9:00 AM on November 6 [6 favorites]

Guys, I just realized

One of the greatest ancient civilizations

Was a really f**kin elaborate funeral home marketing tactic.

I mean

Cat mummies. And forgeries of them.
posted by saysthis at 9:19 AM on November 6 [4 favorites]

You know what they say - "There's more than one way to mummify a cat!"
posted by symbioid at 9:24 AM on November 6 [2 favorites]

"Hey, Ras al-Nile, what should I do with these three leftover dead cats?"

"Eh, wrap 'em up and we'll sell it as a buy-two-get-one-free special!"
posted by briank at 9:31 AM on November 6 [3 favorites]

Who will tell the gifted children?
posted by thelonius at 9:37 AM on November 6

One day you're a god, the next day you're a scratching post.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:45 AM on November 6 [5 favorites]

Oh man. Love the 3D printed version.

I grew up near the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, and as a kid I was pretty fascinated by the cat and baboon mummies. I went back as an adult, and while the cat mummies appear to have been real, the baboon mummy was now revealed via x-ray to have been an elaborately wrapped jar. Oh well.
posted by queensissy at 11:26 AM on November 6 [1 favorite]

"Fun" fact: Occasionally giant troves of these scam cat mummies would be found, and they'd be put to...uh, other uses.

In 1888 a farmer found hundreds of thousands of them, and while some good specimens were found (you can see them right now in the British Museum), most of them were sold by the ton and were ground up into fertilizer in Britain.
posted by sideshow at 11:29 AM on November 6 [2 favorites]

If it was a scam, it seems like it would have gone the other way - containers that looked like cats but had no cats inside because the royal cat ran away before it could be euthanized or the embalmer sold or just didn't want to bother. Maybe people requested all their cats be put together to keep each other company? Maybe the embalmer's beloved cat died and he added it to the sarcophagus in the hopes it would have a good afterlife along with the cats of the more ritzy folk?

Or! maybe it was like that crematory in Georgia with all those bodies that got stacked up not because of nefarious purposes but because the owners were so disorganized? The embalmer squirrels away cats from the previous four funerals because he just ran out of time and then, trying to make things right, sneaks them all in together at the next funeral.
posted by frobozz at 12:28 PM on November 6 [4 favorites]

If it was a scam, it seems like it would have gone the other way - containers that looked like cats but had no cats inside because the royal cat ran away before it could be euthanized or the embalmer sold or just didn't want to bother.

Think of it as a religious tourist trap. You show up, you get yer cat mummy, you put it in the shrine, you leave.

Also, literally millions of cat mummies were involved in this. This isn't "the royal cat". Think of all modern day cats in animal shelters. Now, think of what would happen if there was an extremely lucrative business behind having shitloads of cats around. There was no need for fake cat mummies (although many of them had only a head, or a different head stitched with a different body, etc). With cats, it's pretty easy to get the supply you need if the demand is there.
posted by sideshow at 12:55 PM on November 6

It's just economies of scale making cat mummification more efficient. At that mummy's point in history, they figured out how to get three cat mummies out of each cat's nine lives; the mummies with the bones of only one cat life is when they figured out how to get nine mummies out of each one.
posted by Drastic at 1:11 PM on November 6

It looks like a reverential act to me: a scammer wouldn't have put any cat remains inside, let alone collected three sets of them. I suppose that someone found the remains of some cats and felt this was a pious and/or respectful way to inter them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:29 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]

“In ancient times cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this.”

There's no real reason for me to quote this here. I just miss having Terry Pratchett around.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 3:32 PM on November 6 [4 favorites]

You get three scoops of the finest assorted cat parts here at Pyramid & Sphinx Discount Funerary Supply
posted by bigbigdog at 5:00 PM on November 6

Maybe the parts are from three of the Pharaoh's favorite cats in an attempt to create a super cat in the afterlife?
posted by bdc34 at 3:29 PM on November 7

I want to leave the image of the clear 3D print version on the Facebook ad for turning a photo of your cat into a piece of lucite with a 3D image of your cat inside.
posted by larrybob at 8:55 AM on November 8

If it was a scam

"...many of the mummies were made to appear bigger than the animals themselves, and some didn't contain animal remains at all. Instead, they were filled with organic material such as leather and gravel"
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 12:19 PM on November 8

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