Researchers studying Egyptian mummies in the Netherlands discovered a surprise hidden inside one of their subjects: 47 baby crocodiles! While preparing for a new museum exhibit, museum curators used a 3-D scan to see inside the mummy. Earlier scans in the 1990s showed that the giant crocodile-shaped mummy was made up of two smaller crocodiles preserved together. But the new scans revealed the dozens of baby crocodiles inside the 2,500-year-old object.
New advances in scanning technology made the discovery possible. Earlier scans of the mummy were not detailed enough to show the small stowaways. The new technology, fittingly called Inside Explorer, created high-resolution X-rays of the delicate mummies without causing any damage. The scan provides researchers with a clear view of the wrapped figures’ interiors.
Mummified crocodiles are not unusual. Experts at the British Museum in London made a related find in 2015. Using similar technology, they discovered 20 hatchlings wrapped up with a much larger crocodile. The technology also revealed that, during the mummification process, ancient Egyptian embalmers had replaced the crocodile’s organs with linen. The scan was so detailed that it even showed the creature’s last meal!
It isn’t surprising to find mummified crocodiles. The reptiles featured prominently in ancient Egyptian art and culture. People both honored and feared them. Their presence in the life-giving Nile River made them a symbol of fertility, but their ferocity also made them a danger. Today, experts believe the mummified animals are a tribute to Sobek, a god who symbolized the strength and power of the pharaoh.
This most recent discovery is on display at the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities. If you want to peek inside the mummies yourself, visitors can use a touch screen to perform a “virtual autopsy,” examining the inside of the mummy using the very same scans that revealed the baby crocs.