Ancient Animal Burials in Egypt Were Monkeys Imported as Pets from India

Related Articles

Related Articles

Remains of monkey burials in an ancient animal cemetery in the Red Sea port of Berenice in Egypt, were imported as pets from India 2000 years ago.

In the first century AD, the Romans took control of Egypt, making the city an important trading hub.

The burials were initially believed to originate from Northeast Africa, imported to the port city through the trans-oceanic trade network linking Africa and the Middle East.


The precise identification of the remains was difficult, as the monkeys were still adolescents and hadn’t yet developed features in their skeletons that articulated the characteristics to match with a particular native African species.

The researchers instead used modern techniques with digital models and 3D imagery that revealed the monkeys were rhesus macaques, originating from as far as India thousands of miles away.

The rhesus macaque is brown or grey in colour and has a pink face, which is bereft of fur. The species is native to South, Central, and Southeast Asia and has the widest geographic range today of all non-human primates, occupying a great diversity of altitudes and a great variety of habitats, from grasslands to arid and forested areas, but also close to human settlements.

Image Credit : Professor Marta Osypińska

Each of the monkey burials was arranged like “sleeping babies” and placed on their side, with one of the burials being covered with a woollen cloth, and others being buried alongside seashells.

Alongside the burials were also the remains of three kittens, and fragments of Roman amphorae, one that contained a piece of cloth and the other having contained the remains of a piglet.

Professor Marta Osypińska, a zooarchaeologist from the Polish Academy of Sciences, said: “This is an absolutely unique finding. So far, no one has found Indian monkeys in archaeological sites in Africa.”

Osypińska believes that the animals were imported to Egypt as pets and adds: “This was related to the necessity to provide the animals with adequate food and water during a several-week voyage through the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Unfortunately, after reaching Berenice, the monkeys were not able to adapt and all died young. They probably lacked fresh fruit and other necessary food”.

Header Image Credit : Professor Marta Osypińska

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Tenochtitlan – The Aztec Capital

Tenochtitlan was the capital of the Aztec civilisation, situated on a raised islet in the western side of the shallow Lake Texcoco, which is now the historic part of present-day Mexico City.

Archipelago in Ancient Doggerland Survived Storegga Tsunami 8,000-Years-Ago

Doggerland, dubbed “Britain’s Atlantis” is a submerged landmass beneath what is now the North Sea, that once connected Britain to continental Europe.

Cereal, Olive & Vine Pollen Reveal Market Integration in Ancient Greece

In the field of economics, the concept of a market economy is largely considered a modern phenomenon.

The Annulment of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon at Dunstable Priory

The Priory Church of St Peter (Dunstable Priory) is the remaining nave of a former Augustinian priory church and monastery, that today is part of the Archdeaconry of Bedford, located within the Diocese of St Albans in the town of Dunstable, England.

Teōtīhuacān – Birthplace of the Gods

Teōtīhuacān, named by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs, and loosely translated as "birthplace of the gods" is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in the Teotihuacan Valley of the Free and Sovereign State of Mexico, in present-day Mexico.

Chetro Ketl – The Great House

Chetro Ketl is an archaeological site, and the ancient ruins of an Ancestral Puebloan settlement, located in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico, United States of America.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings

The Gila Cliff Dwellings is an archaeological site, and ancient settlement constructed by the pueblos Mimbres branch of the Mogollon, located in southwest New Mexico of the United States of America.

Rare Cretaceous-Age Fossil Opens New Chapter in Story of Bird Evolution

A Cretaceous-age, crow-sized bird from Madagascar would have sliced its way through the air wielding a large, blade-like beak and offers important new insights on the evolution of face and beak shape in the Mesozoic forerunners of modern birds.

Popular stories

Teōtīhuacān – Birthplace of the Gods

Teōtīhuacān, named by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs, and loosely translated as "birthplace of the gods" is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in the Teotihuacan Valley of the Free and Sovereign State of Mexico, in present-day Mexico.

Legio IX Hispana – The Lost Roman Legion

One of the most debated mysteries from the Roman period involves the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispana, a legion of the Imperial Roman Army that supposedly vanished sometime after AD 120.

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.