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Archaeology

A lion found in the Egyptian tomb of Maïa

Burial of a mummified lion at a dedicated site confirms this animal's once-sacred status.

Abstract

Lions are mentioned by classical scholars and in pharaonic inscriptions as being among the sacred animals that were bred and buried in the Nile valley. And yet no specimens have been found in Egypt — until the excavation of the Bubasteion necropolis at Saqqara. Here we describe a complete skeleton, once a mummy, of a male lion (Panthera leo) that was discovered there, buried among the cats' catacombs1 created during the last centuries bc and occupying the much older tomb of Maïa, wet-nurse to the king Tutankhamun (from the New Kingdom, fourteenth century bc). This important find at a site that was dedicated to the feline goddess Bastet (also known as Bubastis) confirms the status of the lion as a sacred animal during the Late and Greek periods.

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Figure 1: Sacred burial of a lion (Panthera leo).

P. CHAPUIS

Figure 2: Skeletal features of the lion lying in Maïa's tomb.

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Correspondence to Alain Zivie.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Callou, C., Samzun, A. & Zivie, A. A lion found in the Egyptian tomb of Maïa. Nature 427, 211–212 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/427211a

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