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Over 500 animals found in world's 'oldest pet cemetery' in Egypt

A cat statue is displayed in Cairo, Egypt on 23 November 2019 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images]
A cat statue is displayed in Cairo, Egypt on 23 November 2019 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images]

Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered what is believed to be the oldest-known pet cemetery in the world. The burial site which dates back nearly 2,000 years was discovered at the Berenice port along the country's Red Sea coast.

The remains of almost 600 animals were unearthed and mostly includes cats and dogs. Contrary to the common practise of mummifying deceased animals to honour their gods, the animals buried in this cemetery were different, reported Live Science, citing the lead researcher Marta Osypińska, a zooarchaeologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.

"We have old, sick and deformed animals that had to be fed and looked after by someone," Osypińska said.

"We have animals (almost all) that are very carefully buried. The animals are placed in a sleeping position — sometimes wrapped in a blanket, sometimes covered with dishes."

READ: Egypt's Al-Azhar prohibits excavating and displaying mummies

None of the animals showed signs that they were killed by humans and some were also buried wearing "precious and exclusive" iron-made collars or necklaces decorated with shells, glass and beads.

Of the 585 animals excavated, 536 were cats, 32 dogs, 15 monkeys, one fox and one was a falcon, Osypińska explained. Many of the animals were not necessarily working animals, as among the discoveries were miniature dogs and nearly toothless older dogs.

The findings, which were first published earlier this year in the World Archaeology journal, shed a new light on human-animal relationships in antiquity. Despite some scholars questioning the existence of "pets" as we know them today, the study suggests that the people living in Berenice nearly 2,000 years ago looked after "non-utilitarian" animals in similar ways as today.

READ: Egypt unveils 59 ancient coffins in major archaeological discovery

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