While just about everyone is having a tough time in this economy, the estimated $47.7 billion pet industry, according to the American Pet Products Association, manages to defy the recession year after year. Upscale grooming spas and luxury resorts abound, not to mention full-fledged lines of designer clothing and accessories. And everyone is getting in on the action. Pets can now have Omaha Steak treats, Harley Davidson toys and Paul Mitchell grooming products.
As outrageous as some of the pampering and spoiling might seem, this kind of pet-centric extravagance, is nothing new. The British Museum is home to a veritable menagerie of ancient Egyptian animal mummies. Many were beloved pets given elaborate burials upon death, or upon the death of their owner. Sacred animals were mummified as deities in their own right. Then there were the vast quantities of “votive mummies” offered by pilgrims as gifts to please the gods. Mass catacombs have been found containing mummified cats buried ten to twenty deep. National Geographic interviewed Egyptologist Salima Ikram, director of the Animal Mummy Project at the Cairo Museum, about the votive mummy fad, and the scams it spawned.
The mummy business boomed, employing legions of specialized workers. Animals had to be bred, cared for, dispatched, and mummified. Resins had to be imported, wrappings prepared, tombs dug.
Despite the lofty purpose of the product, corruption crept into the assembly line, and the occasional pilgrim ended up with something dodgy. "A fakery, a jiggery-pokery," Ikram says. Her x-rays have revealed a variety of ancient consumer rip-offs: a cheaper animal substituted for a rarer, more expensive one; bones or feathers in place of a whole animal; beautiful wrappings around nothing but mud. The more attractive the package, Ikram has discovered, the greater the chance of a scam.
See the National Geographic photo gallery and the interactive map.
Mummified cats. The quilting blog, Seams Likely, points out the “log cabin” design on the ancient mummified specimens--go figure!