Ancient pet burials in Asia and Africa

Domesticated animals have kept humans company for thousands of years. In the past, when their companion passed away, owners would give them a proper burial like any other member of their family. We list the unique ways people in Asia and Africa honour their companions through pet burials.

 

Egypt

Animals were seen as manifestations of the gods. The ancient Egyptians had pets like dogs and cats, with the wealthy nobles being able to afford more ‘exotic’ pets. It was normal for richer households and royalty to own baboons, falcons, and even leopards. It was also normal for these ‘pets’ to turn on each other from time to time. The baboon was no match for the leopard!

 

Dogs and cats served as companions around the home and on the hunt. They also kept the house free of pests like rats and snakes. When they passed (or were sacrificed), the animals received just as much consideration as a human when they were mummified. Sacred animal and pet burials were common during ancient times. Dozens of necropolises dedicated to pet burials and sacrifices dot the Egyptian landscape. Some pet burials have even been mistaken for human ones. What some archaeologists thought was a princesses’ baby turned out to be her pet baboon.

 

China

Animals and pets played an important role in ancient China. They often played roles in mythology and of course the Chinese zodiac. The zodiac includes animals you’d find in everyday life like rats, snakes, and dogs, as well as  the legendary dragon.

 

Animals like dogs and pandas were sources of food, controversially seen as ‘delicacies’ that had healing properties. When it came time for funerals, it was common for clay figurines to be part of a pet burial as well as the actual corpse. In Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di’s necropolis, horse-drawn chariots and mounts were created from clay and metal.

 

On both continents, there were just as many memorials and tributes as there were pet burials. Dog, horse, and dragon statues stand guard in temples, households, and places of national importance.

 

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