College of LAS « Illinois

Spurlock Museum

Hawk Mummy Mystery

Remains of a harrier

The Spurlock Museum got a treat recently when its staff was able to peek through the linen wrappers of a 2,500–year–old mummy. Using new digital radiography equipment in U. of I.'s College of Veterinary Medicine, Egyptologist and museum director Douglas Brewer discovered the remains of a harrier, a member of the hawk family, that were so well preserved that they hinted at a "foul" existence for the young bird.

"Judging by the long beak, the bird never scavenged for food and was most likely raised in captivity, for sacrificial purposes," says Brewer.

In ancient Egypt, birds (and other animals) were mummified and sold to pilgrims as devotional gifts to the gods. This mummy came from Akhmin, which is along the Nile River near Abydos, the ancient burial place of Egypt's first kings as well as the mythological god Osiris.

The mummy, which is a potential gift to the museum, provides a glimpse of everyday life in ancient times.

Fall/Winter 2006–07