England Ground Ancient Cat Mummies Into Fertilizer

It's the circle of life.
England Ground Ancient Cat Mummies Into Fertilizer

Ancient Egypt was nuts about cats, as you surely know. They had cat gods, cat statues, cat Instagram accounts, cat temples, and if you came by and killed a cat, even by mistake, you could expect a crowd to lynch you on the spot. Of course, maybe they were really lynching you because you were Roman and they didn't like the look of you, but the fact that they could use the cat killing even as a pretext says something.

They even made cats into mummies, just as they did with people. Back around 1350 BC, for instance, they mummified Ta-miu, the cat belonging to Prince Thutmose, and they even gave the cat its own limestone sarcophagus. Mummify a cat this way, and the goal was to send it to the afterlife to accompany its human. 

Many cats also became mummies without receiving this individual treatment. In Thebes and Saqqara, people mummified cats as offerings to the god Bastet rather than as companions for dead royalty. They went out of their way to kill cats for this purpose and even raised cats on a large scale with the goal of killing and mummifying them. So, separate from occasional adorable cat sarcophagi, archaeologists have also found thousands of cat mummies piled together in mass graves.

In 1888, an Egyptian farmer unearthed one of these graves containing hundreds of thousands of cats. Some were in good enough condition that anyone would want one, but the rest were of interest only to archaeologists and didn't have much chance of being sold one by one.

In those days, human mummies were being dug up in huge numbers, so people used them for stuff beyond preserving them in museums. We've told you about some of these uses before—in Europe, people ate bits of mummies for their presumed medicinal properties and distilled a pigment from mummies to turn into paint. The cat mummies were not considered good enough to be used for even those purposes. 

So when a company bought the mummies in bulk, the cats were fated for something else. The company brought 180,000 cat mummies, weighing 19.5 tons, to England. They auctioned the mummies off, for a final price of 5 pounds 17 shillings and sixpence a ton. Liverpool bidders ground the cats up and sprinkled them on crops as fertilizer. Hey, it's the circle of life. 

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For more things you can do with your mummy, check out:

There's a Shade of Brown Made of People

The 6 Most Terrifying Things People Used to Do With the Dead

Hearing The 3,000-Year-Old Mummy Was Disappointing

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see. 

Top image: Mario Sánchez


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