Eighty-six pet cats from the Roman Era were found on the outskirts of the ancient port town of Berenike (Berenice) near the Red Sea in Egypt. The method of burial implies they were not part of a religious ritual, just pets that died of natural causes. This phenomenon has been noted with many different animal species and involved various funerary practices in the ancient world, although mummification was the most common.
Animal Burials Weren’t Uncommon
The burial of animals is attested to in Egypt from the pre-Dynastic period through to Roman times. However, animal burials in ritualistic contexts is also encountered across Europe from Prehistory through historical times. The most frequently buried animal type in Berenike was the domestic cat, while in most European places it was the domestic dog.
Egypt was probably the most significant of the places where cats were first domesticated. To date, the Berenike cemetery has produced 86 complete cat skeletons and several other bones from disturbed burials. Single cat bones have been identified in other parts of the Early Roman port and its rubbish dumps.
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