It is well known that the ancient Egyptians honored a range of animals, including the sacred ibis, but a new study has revealed that mummified birds were stuffed with food in a manner similar to humans, which may indicate a level of honor previously unsuspected. According to Discovery News, the embalming rituals used on the birds was likely similar to those used on humans, including removing internal organs and inserting snails into dead birds' bills to serve as food in the afterlife. At the same time, evidence of injuries also indicates that the birds were likely killed in a sacrificial manner, though human sacrifices were not unknown at the same time.
The sacred ibis has a special place in Egyptian mythology, as the god Thoth was often depicted with the head of an ibis. Thoth has been associated with magic, writing, wisdom, science and judgment of the dead. Today, the African sacred ibis is a common wading bird throughout sub-Saharan Africa and in certain parts of the Middle East, as well as other areas where introduced populations are thriving.
African Sacred Ibis
Photo © Cliff