Using Mitogenomes to Explore the Social and Ecological Contexts of Crocodile Mummification in Ancient Egypt

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Sociology, Egyptology & Anthropology Department

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Evon R. Hekkala, Roger Colten, Seth W. Cunningham, Oliver Smith, Salima Ikram

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Research Article

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Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History

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We used isotopic and genomic data to explore the ecological and social context of cultural practices associated with the mummification of crocodiles in ancient Egypt. Ancient DNA was recovered from four mummified crocodile hatchlings held in the collections of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University. Previous genetic analyses of crocodile mummies have indicated that most mummies represent the newly resurrected taxon, Crocodylus suchus Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1807. However, mitogenomic data for the Yale Peabody Museum mummies indicates that these specimens represent the first genomically authenticated representatives of the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus Laurenti, 1768) in museum collections. We explore these findings within the broader context of modern and historical distributions of both crocodile species and the potential implications for our understanding of funerary practices involving crocodiles in ancient Egypt.

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