70: What crocodile mummies can tell us about everyday life in ancient Egypt

When archeologists, funded by University of California benefactor Phoebe A. Hearst, found hundreds of crocodile mummies on an expedition to Northern Egypt in 1899, they were annoyed. They were searching for human mummies and artifacts, fueled by Egyptomania — the Western obsession with all things Egyptian.

When they found papyri — paper's earliest ancestor — stuffed inside of the mummies with text written on it by Egyptians thousands of years before, they were suddenly interested. But instead of collecting the mummies, they began to break them open, remove the papyri and discard the crocodiles.

Now, more than 100 years later, 19 mummified crocodiles are part of the Egyptian collection at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley. These mummies, along with a collection of papyri held by the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri at the Bancroft Library, give us clues about how everyday ancient Egyptians lived and how far they went to appease crocodiles, hoping their devotion would win them some good will toward humankind.

Listen to the episode, read a transcript and see photos on Berkeley News.

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