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In catacombs south of Cairo, researchers have discovered burial sites filled with huge numbers of mummified animals — nearly 8 million of them, mostly dogs.

The catacombs, at a site called Saqqara, are dedicated to Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the afterlife. Archaeologist and Egyptologist Salima Ikram, a professor at the American University in Cairo who has worked extensively at the site, writes that animal mummification began in ancient Egypt “to allow beloved pets to go on to the afterlife, to provide food in the afterlife, to act as offerings to a particular god and because some were seen as physical manifestations of specific gods that the Egyptians worshipped.”

Millions Of Mummified Dogs Found In Ancient Egyptian Catacombs

Photos: Courtesy of Paul Nicholson; Courtesy of Salima Ikram