No, we are not referring to the work of Stephen King. This one is less scary and maybe even adorable. It is the oldest pet cemetery in the world. It was found in Egypt and is almost 2,000 years old. It’s full of remains of cats and monkeys who wear necklaces with shell, glass, and stone beads.
Well cared for animals
It is known that the ancient Egyptians mummified innumerable animals to honor the gods. But this cemetery is different, said researcher Marta Osypinska. None of the creatures in this cemetery showed evidence of human killing.
Instead, “we have old, sick, and deformed animals. They had to be fed and cared for by someone », dijo Osypinska a live science. “We have animals (almost all of them) that are buried very carefully. The animals are brought into a sleeping position. Sometimes wrapped in a blanket, sometimes covered with plates.
In one case, a macaque monkey was buried with three kittens, a basket of grass, cloth, pot fragments, and “two very beautiful shells from the Indian Ocean stacked against its head”. Osypinska believes that the animals in Berenice were not sacrifices to the gods, only domestic animals.
They discovered the pet cemetery by accident. For years, researchers excavated the outskirts of Berenice because there is an old landfill there. In 2011, archaeologists began finding small animal remains in one area.
“It turned out to be dozens of cat skeletons,” he said. Osypinska. Of the 585 animals excavated, 536 were cats, 32 dogs, 15 monkeys, a fox and a falcon. Makeshift coffins have also been found in the world’s oldest pet cemetery.
Like some pets today, these animals may have worked for their owners. But some of the animals were deformed. That said, they probably couldn’t run. His team also found dogs, some almost toothless, that reached old age.
There is other evidence that these animals were pets. Many of the cats wore iron or pearl collars, “sometimes very precious and exclusive”.
Many scholars argue that ancient times did not have the concept of “pets”. But “our discovery shows that humans have a deep need for the company of animals,” said Osypinska. About 2,000 years ago “the port of Berenice was at the end of the world. It was an empty and hostile piece of the world, “he said. Merchants came here to bring exclusive goods into the empire. What they did on such a long and difficult journey: a beloved dog or a monkey from India or cats.
The study appears in the online edition of the journal on January 25th. World archeology.