Egypt’s sands have revealed many treasures over the ages, but, more recently, archaeologists digging in a necropolis close to Cairo discovered something that has them scratching their heads. Experts found the bones of an eight-year-old child carefully spread out among the corpses of 142 dogs.
The team from the Centre for Egyptological Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences (CEI RAS) had been working on excavations at the necropolis in the Faiyum Oasis. Specifically, the necropolis lies west of the Nile River and is around sixty miles south of Cairo. The burial likely took place in the first century B.C.E., reports Euro Weekly News.
According to the CEI RAS, “a child of eight to nine years old was laid on top of the bodies of 142 dogs of different ages, mostly puppies…However, archaeologists found something much stranger: a linen bag had been put over the child’s head.”
“Burials like those discovered by the Centre’s specialists are not typical for Egypt,” CEI RAS noted, speculating that “the mass burial of dogs may indicate a synthesis of religious and magical ideas of the Egyptians and foreigners living in [Faiyum], which gave rise to new forms of ritual practice.”
Clues for archaeologists
Although the scene was puzzling, researchers were able to find some clues as to what could have happened to the dog and the child.
Blue clay was reportedly found on the dog bones by archaeologists, as reported by Heritage Daily. As this clay was also widely found in ancient Egyptian reservoirs, it is probable that a catastrophic flood was responsible for the extinction of these animals. Since the dogs show no signs of having been abused, drowning is the most likely cause of their deaths.
The child’s involvement at the burial is unclear. It is unknown what the eight-year-old’s relationship was to the dogs, although archaeologists have theorized that the child may have been caring for the animals at the time of their sudden deaths.
The linen bag on the child’s head
What about the linen bag that was on the child’s head, though? That raises even more questions. A body in a similar bag was discovered at the necropolis earlier but with a significant difference. That person had been executed, as indicated by the arrow found in his chest.
While many mysteries still surround the ancient Egyptians, the finding of the child and the dogs provides intriguing insight into their daily lives. The mysterious discovery was uncovered close to Crocodilopolis, an ancient Egyptian town named after the crocodile god Sobek.
CEI RAS archaeologists have spent years digging at the cemetery of Faiyum Oasis. Aside from the child buried with the 142 dogs, other graves going back to the fourth century B.C.E. through the seventh century C.E. have also been discovered in the area.
Hopefully, these graves will provide a more complete picture of what life for people in ancient Egypt was like over a thousand years ago. Lastly, perhaps further exploration of the necropolis will also reveal the fate of the young child and the dogs.