Roman Pet Burials Examined in Egypt

News June 6, 2024

WROCŁAW, POLAND—According to a Science in Poland report, the graves of more than 200 monkeys, dogs, cats, and calves have been recently unearthed by an international team of researchers led by Marta Osypińska of the University of Wrocław in the pet cemetery at Berenice, a port city built on the coast of the Red Sea in the first century A.D. by the Roman emperor Tiberius. Previous research has shown that many of the monkeys buried in the cemetery were rhesus macaques and bonnet macaques imported from India. Osypińska said that most of the monkeys had been wrapped in fabrics and placed in the graves as if they had been sleeping on their sides, covered in blankets, with their paws next to their faces. Opalescent shells rags, a cow’s tail, collars, harnesses, and the remains of a piglet and kittens were also found in the monkeys’ graves. Meanwhile, the remains of two calves were found at the bottom of two large pits in the cemetery. Both of their heads had been smeared with ocher, and a large amphora fragment had been placed over the head of the older calf. The researchers think the calves may have been sacrificed when the animal cemetery was established, or in honor of a sacred object in the area. To read about previous finds from the cemetery, go to "Around the World: Egypt."

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