Gifts for the Gods

BookGifts for the Gods

Gifts for the Gods

Ancient Egyptian Animal Mummies and the British


October 7th, 2015





Gifts for the Gods is an enlightening and richly illustrated book on animal mummies from ancient Egypt. Introducing readers to the wealth of animal mummies in British museums and private collections, this fascinating collection focuses on the prevalent type of animal mummy to be found in Britain: the votive offering.

In a series of chapters written by experts in their field, Gifts for the Gods details the role of animals in ancient Egypt and in museum collections. It concentrates on the unique relationship of British explorers, travellers, archaeologists, curators and scientists with this material. The book describes a best-practice protocol for the scientific study of animal mummies by the Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank team, whilst acknowledging that the current research represents only the beginning of a much larger task.

1. Concentrates on the role of the British in the discovery, collection, curation and scientific study of animal mummies. 2. Logical, thematic layout as opposed to a series of essays. 3. Fresh scientific analysis on animal mummies in museum collections by experts in their respective fields. Hopefully gives interested people the background information enabling them to embark on their own study of this material. 4. Focuses on a research project, rather than an individual collection of species as has previously been the case. 5. Takes into account the social histories and post-excavation histories of artefacts which have since become dispersed around the world. We give the stories of their discovery and those of the people who brought the objects to Britain.


'Gifts for the Gods presents an important contribution to a field of study which, although it has long intrigued early travellers and collectors, was thought to be of little scientific interest to early archaeologists. It also provides new and useful information on the history of the collection and study of animal mummies in the British context.  This book and the work conducted by the authors for the accompanying exhibition is very much on point for modern research interests but is also well worth a read for those with an interest in the preparation, deposition, rediscovery and collections of these fascinating yet often under-studied relics of ancient Egypt.'
ASTENE Bulletin

Author Information

Lidija M. McKnight is Research Associate, University of Manchester. Stephanie Atherton-Woolham is Research Associate, University of Manchester.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Mummy Studies at the University of Manchester (Rosalie David)
Animal Mummies: A zooarchaeologist’s perspective (Don Brothwell)
Prologue (Lidija McKnight and Stephanie Atherton-Woolham)
1. Understanding the Landscape and Environment of Ancient Egypt
1.1 Understanding the Ancient Egyptian environment, with reference to natural history specimens in museums (Henry McGhie)
1.2 Biodiversity in Ancient Egypt (John Wyatt)
2. Divine Donations: Gifts for the Gods
2.1 Votive Practice in Ancient Egypt (Campbell Price)
2.2 Animals as Votive Offerings in Ancient Egypt (Stephanie Atherton-Woolham and Lidija McKnight)
3. Egypt and the British: Archaeologists, Collectors and Collections
3.1 Early British Fascination with Egypt (Lidija McKnight and Campbell Price)
3.2 ‘The Father of Egyptology’? - Flinders Petrie and Animal Mummies (Alice Stevenson)
3.3 The British at Abydos, Egypt – The Contributions of T. Eric Peet and W. Leonard S. Loat in the Excavation of Animal Cemeteries (Rozenn Bailleul-LeSuer)
3.4 British Work at the Sacred Animal Necropolis, North Saqqara, Egypt (Paul T. Nicholson)
3.5 Unearthing mummified cats, fish and 'monkeys': John Garstang’s Excavations in the Nile Valley (Anna Garnett)
3.6 Sir John Gardner Wilkinson and the collection of Egyptian Antiquities at Harrow School (Julia Walton)
3.7 Air Raids and Auctions: Liverpool’s Animal Mummy Collection (Ashley Cooke)
3.8 Dealers, Donors and Doctors: Exploring Glasgow’s Egyptian Collection (Gabrielle Heffernan and Brian Weightman)
3.9 The Mummies of Cottonopolis: The Manchester Museum Collection (Campbell Price)
4. Animal Mummy Investigations at Manchester
4.1 The Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank (Lidija McKnight)
4.2 Archival and Historical Investigation (Lidija McKnight and Stephanie Atherton-Woolham)
4.3 A Picture Tells a Thousand Words – Visual inspection and photography of animal mummies (Lidija McKnight)
4.4 Imaging Animal Mummies: History and techniques (Judith Adams)
4.5 What Lies Beneath – Imaging animal mummies (Lidija McKnight)
4.6 Industrial Imaging (Lidija McKnight and Richard Bibb)
4.7 Sample Acquisition – why, when and how is it conducted? (Lidija McKnight and Stephanie Atherton-Woolham)
4.8 What is that sample? Light microscopy as a screening method for mummified samples (Stephanie Atherton-Woolham)
4.9 Molecular Characterisation of Natural Products (Rhea Brettell)
4.10 Making Mummies: Experimental mummification (Lidija McKnight)
4.11 Outreach and Dissemination (Lidija McKnight)
4.12 Conservation and Care of Animal Mummies (Sam Sportun)
Epilogue (Lidija McKnight and Stephanie Atherton-Woolham)