Archaeologists at Cornell University were stunned when they discovered a 1,500-year-old sacred ibis bird inside an ancient Egyptian mummy that they previously believed to be a hawk. According to Cornell Chronicle, researchers, at first, didn’t even know how they came to own the artefact as they have no record of it ever. However, after sending the historical object for a full examination at a CT scan, it revealed details of the bird’s life in amazing clarity.
The scan revealed that one of the creature’s legs had been fractured before getting mummified. It also exposed that the feathers and delicate tissues of the bird were carefully preserved.
In a statement, Carol Ann Barsody, a master’s student in archaeology at the university, said, “Not only was this once a living creature that people of the day may have enjoyed watching stroll through the water, but it also was, and is, something sacred, something religious.” Ms Barsody explained that throughout ancient Egypt, the ibis bird – famed for its thin legs and curbed beak – was valued highly. They were sacrificed in rituals to the Egyptian god of wisdom and music, Thoth.
As per Cornell Chronicle, the scan revealed that the ibis’ head had been twisted around and bent back against its body. The sternum and ribcage had also been removed – a practice that isn’t common among mummifications. The researchers weighed the mummy, which came in at 952 grams, which is roughly the same as a quart of milk.
“As best they can tell, the bird is somewhere on the order of 1,500 to 2,000 years old,” the archaeologists said.
Now, despite all their findings, the one thing that the researchers still don’t know is where the bird came from. Ms Barsody said that she first presumed it dated back to an 1884 arrival of freight objects from ancient Egypt, along with human mummification dubbed Penpi. However, she quickly realised that this wasn’t the case.
Ms Barsody suspects that the mummy bird may have been part of a cache from Saqqara that was donated in 1930 by an alumnus, John Randolph, although after that, the trail goes cold, the Cornell Chronicle said.