A depiction of Osiris, god of the Egyptian underworld. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Rama
Two Egyptian sarcophagi dating back 3,000 years have been found to contain something rather unexpected.
When scientists used a CT scanner to peer beneath the wrappings of two mummies at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel, recently, what they found inside came as quite a surprise.
The two mummies had been part of a collection at the National Maritime Museum for many years.
The smallest of the two, which was described as 'bird-like' and was thought to have represented the Egyptian god Horus, actually contained the remains of a literal bird inside - possibly a falcon.
The other, which had long been thought to contain the remains of a young child, turned out to be filled with mud and grain - most likely as an offering to Osiris, the Egyptian god of death.
The mummies may have been placed in a tomb alongside an actual human mummy to act as protection for the soul of the deceased as it made its way to the afterlife.
"In ancient Egypt, when there was a tomb created for a human being, they would place certain artefacts and even certain animals in with these mummified remains," said Marcia Javitt, director of medical imaging at Rambam Hospital.
"And birds in ancient Egypt had a very important role... because they were thought to be protectors, so they would often place them in the tombs with the Pharaohs."
"I'm not saying this bird came from the tomb of a Pharaoh but it's conceivable that it had something to do with that kind of story."