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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Many of Egypt's Animal Mummies Don't Contain Mummies At All

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The BBC estimates that between 800 BC and the Roman times, Egyptians mummified as many as 70 million animals for religious offerings.

"Animal mummies were votive gifts. Today you'd have a candle in a cathedral; in Egyptian times you would have an animal mummy,” said Dr. Campbell Price, curator of Egypt and Sudan, at Manchester Museum. In many ways, the mummies were just another business—something almost everyone would need to purchase at one point or another.

"You would go to a special site, buy an animal mummy, using a system of barter. You'd then give it to a priest, who would collect a group of animal mummies and bury them,” Price explained. But despite a dedicated program of breeding and killing animals specifically for mummification, it was hard to keep up with the demand.

So the mummifiers started cutting corners. Or so it seems, based on new research out of Manchester Museum and the University of Manchester.

Over 800 specimens—ranging from cats and birds to crocodiles—were run through X-rays and CT scans for a project followed by the BBC's Horizon program. And what they found wasn’t quite what they were expecting.

"There have been some surprises,” said Dr. Lidija McKnight, an Egyptologist from the University of Manchester. About a third of the 800 contained remarkably well-preserved animal mummies, just as the wrappings would have one believe. Another third contained partial remains. And the final third? Nothing much.

"Basically, organic material such as mud, sticks and reeds, that would have been lying around the embalmers' workshops, and also things like eggshells and feathers, which were associated with the animals, but aren't the animals themselves,” McKnight said.

Dr. Price doesn't think that this necessarily indicates an ancient scam in which the embalmers passed off piles of junk for spiritually-significant tokens. Rather, he speculates that they were turning to "materials associated with the animals during their lifetime" when stocks ran low and that this was a compromise the mourning customers would have been aware of. Think of it as the Ancient Egyptian equivalent of buying a knock-off designer purse. 

[h/t io9]

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Martin Wittfooth
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Art
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig
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Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]

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