Baboons in Ancient Egypt were raised in captivity before being mummified

In a new study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, researchers examined a collection of baboon mummies from the ancient Egyptian site of Gabbanat el-Qurud, the so-called Valley of the Monkeys on the west bank of Luxor.

From the 9th century BC, a tradition emerged that revered and mummified a variety of animal species, among them baboons, which were not native to Ancient Egypt.

- Advertisement -

The researchers analysed skeletal remains from 36 individual baboons of various ages. Out of the 14 identified individuals by species, 8 were classified as Papio anubis, while 6 were categorised as Papio hamadryas.

Radiocarbon dating was attempted on 13 individuals, but only three could be dated – indicating that they all belong to the end of the Third Intermediate Period and the beginning of the Late Period.

The study also revealed that the baboons had lesions, deformations, and abnormalities on the bones, likely as a result of poor nutrition and a lack of sunlight. According to the researchers, this is likely as a result of being born and raised in captivity.

The paper highlights that comparable conditions are evident in baboon remains found at two other sites, Saqqara and Tuna el-Gebel, indicating a relatively uniform method of captive care across all three locations.

- Advertisement -

“These findings offer valuable perspectives on the care and treatment of baboons in Ancient Egypt before their eventual mummification, yet additional aspects warrant further exploration,” said the authors.

The paper proposes that a more comprehensive analysis of the animals’ teeth could yield additional information regarding their diets. Furthermore, the potential extraction of DNA from these remains might unveil details about the animals’ origins in the wild and shed light on the breeding techniques employed by their caretakers.

Header Image Credit : Bea De Cupere, CC-BY 4.0

- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 8,000 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Pyramid of the Moon marked astronomical orientation axis of Teōtīhuacān

Teōtīhuacān, loosely translated as "birthplace of the gods," is an ancient Mesoamerican city situated in the Teotihuacan Valley, Mexico.

Anglo-Saxon cemetery discovered in Malmesbury

Archaeologists have discovered an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in the grounds of the Old Bell Hotel in Malmesbury, England.

Musket balls from “Concord Fight” found in Massachusetts

Archaeologists have unearthed five musket balls fired during the opening battle of the Revolutionary War at Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, United States.

3500-year-old ritual table found in Azerbaijan

Archaeologists from the University of Catania have discovered a 3500-year-old ritual table with the ceramic tableware still in...

Archaeologists unearth 4,000-year-old temple complex

Archaeologists from the University of Siena have unearthed a 4,000-year-old temple complex on Cyprus.

Rare cherubs made by master mason discovered at Visegrád Castle

A pair of cherubs made by the Renaissance master, Benedetto da Maiano, have been discovered in the grounds of Visegrád Castle.

Archaeologists discover ornately decorated Tang Dynasty tomb

Archaeologists have discovered an ornately decorated tomb from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) during excavations in China’s Shanxi Province.

Archaeologists map the lost town of Rungholt

Rungholt was a medieval town in North Frisia, that according to local legend, was engulfed by the sea during the Saint Marcellus's flood in 1362.