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Ancient Lion Skeleton Found Intact in Egypt

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January 14, 2004

The lion really was held in high regard in ancient Egypt, according to a team of archaeologists who have found a mummified lion skeleton in a tomb south of Cairo. The full skeleton was found well preserved and undisturbed in the tomb of Maia, who was nurse to Tutankhamen, “King Tut,” who ruled from 1333 to 1323 B.C.

The find is significant in that archaeologists have found mass burial grounds for other animals, such as cats, baboons, dogs, and fish; but those animals were not preserved, as was this lion. The fact that the lion was kept intact and so well preserved and even not disturbed supports the idea that lions were special animals in the eyes of the ancient Egyptians. Writings by people who lived back then mentioned that lions were bred, taken well care of, and buried; but remains of lions had not previously been found. The lion was, therefore, a sacred animal, archaeologists have concluded.

The lion is not thought to have belonged to Maia, the nurse. It was found in an area of the tomb dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet. Large numbers of cat bones were found in the area as well.

The tomb is across the Nile River from Memphis, the first capital of the ancient Egyptian civilization.


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