Ancient Egyptians are, according to many accounts, probably the culture with the most respect, admiration and protection for animals. They believed animals were sacred. In fact, they were so sacred that killing one without consent, even accidentally, was punishable by death. According to the Ancient Egyptian religion, animals were a representation of or held a close link to gods and spirituality. They were seen to play a vital role in present life as well as the afterlife. For this reason, some were mummified for preservation as food for those who passed on to the afterlife or as offering to gods.
One of these tomb animals was crocodiles. Archaeologists have, over the years, dug up mass graves of mummified crocodiles. Some of these reptiles were even buried along with various precious ornaments and occasionally they were buried alongside pharaohs.
Sabok and Crocodiles
There was a link between Sabok and crocodiles. Mummified crocodiles were meant to invoke Sabok, a very versatile Egyptian god who held many roles: crocodile god, war god, healer and a god of fertility.
As an offering they were to beseech Sabok – often depicted as a man with a crocodile head – to safe guard the lives of the pharaohs in the afterlife.
Ancient Egyptian texts reveal that crocodiles were worshipped for their fierce nature that was often used in battle to terrify the enemy. Linked to Sabok in this way they received special treatment that included a diet of hand cut meat. Once entombed they wore precious stones.
There were other mummified animals. The categories included cats, ibises and baboons. Mongoose, dogs, birds and beetle were also important elements of the afterlife.
Archaeologists have found that similarities between animal and human mummification processes. For example, both contained the presence of fats, oils, beeswax, sugar gum, petroleum bitumen, and coniferous cedar resins.