Environmental implications of Ptolemaic Period rodents and shrews from the Sacred Falcon Necropolis at Quesna, Egypt (Mammalia: Muridae and Soricidae)

Neal Woodman, The American University in Cairo (AUC)
Salima Ikram, The American University in Cairo (AUC)
Joanne Rowland


Background Assemblages of mummified and preserved animals in necropoleis of Ptolemaic Period Egypt (ca. 332–30 BC) document some aspects of the ceremonial and religious practices of the ancient Egyptians, but study of these animal remains can also provide insight into the local environments in which the animals and humans lived. Results Excavations of the Sacred Falcon Necropolis at Quesna in the Nile Delta have yielded many thousands of animal remains, mostly of raptors, but also of a lesser number of small, wild mammals. Among the latter, we identified four species of murid rodents (Rodentia: Muridae) and five species of shrews (Eulipotyphla: Soricidae). The soricids are of particular interest because they represent a more diverse assemblage of species than occurs in the delta today. They include one species, Crocidura gueldenstaedtii (Pallas, 1811), that no longer occurs in the delta and another, C. fulvastra (Sundevall, 1843), that is now extirpated from Egypt. Conclusions The coexistence of this diverse small mammal community suggests that a greater availability and variety of mesic habitats were present during the Ptolemaic Period than occur there now. The local mammal faunas recovered at Quesna and other well-studied ancient Egyptian sites together provide evidence of a richer, more complex regional environment along the Nile Valley. They also provide important insight regarding the biogeography of the individual species comprising the faunas and about the extent of faunal turnover since the Ptolemaic Period.