Researchers have been left completely dumbstruck by the staggering discovery of dozens of mummified baby crocodiles hidden alongside a massive adult.
The 3-meter-long (10-foot-long) croc, thought to have been embalmed by Ancient Egyptians around 2,500 years ago, has spent nearly two centuries on display at the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, yet the small army of hatchlings had until now gone undetected.
The discovery was made by Swedish firm Interspectral, which carried out 3D CT scans on the crocodile. A previous study in the 1990s had revealed that the enormous adult was in fact accompanied by a second crocodile, but failed to spot the individually wrapped babies – of which there appear to be at least 47.
Curator Lara Weiss believes the reptiles were probably mummified as an offering to the crocodile god Sobek, BBC News reports. Regarding the newly discovered hatchlings, she claims that “you can’t see them very well on the old scans unless you know they’re there – and we never expected to find this.”
The finding provides a fascinating throwback to one of the most iconic civilizations in human history, providing new insights on the beliefs and customs of the Ancient Egyptians.
Famous for preserving their dead, the residents of this enigmatic empire regularly performed mummification rituals on animals as well as humans, and this latest discovery is certainly not the first of its kind.
Last year, for instance, scans revealed 20 hatchlings attached to the back of a mummified crocodile at the British Museum.