On a Wing and a Prayer: Ibis Mummies in Material Culture at Abydos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The production of millions of artificially mummified animals by the ancient Egyptians is an extraordinary expression of religious piety. Millions of creatures of numerous species were preserved, wrapped in linen and deposited as votive offerings; a means by which the Egyptians communicated with their gods. The treatment of animals in this manner resulted in a wealth of material culture; the excavation and distribution of which formed a widely dispersed collection of artefacts in museum and private collections around the world. Due to ad hoc collection methods and the poorly recorded distribution of animal mummies, many artefacts have unknown or uncertain provenance. Researchers at the University of Manchester identified a group of eight mummies positively attributed to the 1913–1914 excavation season at Abydos, now held in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts. This paper presents the investigation of this discreet group of provenanced mummies through stylistic evaluation of the exterior, and the assessment of the contents and construction techniques employed using clinical radiography. Dating of one mummy places the artefact—and likely that of the whole assemblage—within the Late Period (c.664–332BC). Considering these data enables the mummies to be interpreted as the Egyptians intended; as votive artefacts produced within the sacred landscape at Abydos.
Original languageEnglish
Article number128
Pages (from-to)128
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2020


  • Abydos
  • ibis
  • mummy
  • votive
  • radiography
  • dual energy
  • collections management


Dive into the research topics of 'On a Wing and a Prayer: Ibis Mummies in Material Culture at Abydos'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this