Mummy Birds Recovered From Egypt Factory

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The falcons symbolize Horus, one of the oldest of the ancient Egyptian deities, a bird-headed god of the sky and the sun.

"It is rather charming that they acted as talismans for these factories for so long," said Salima Ikram, author of Divine Creatures, a 2005 book about animal mummies in ancient Egypt.

"Nonetheless, it's great that they will be coming back to the Egyptian Museum, where they can be studied, conserved, and reunited with their brethren," she added.

"Regardless of where they came from, it is wonderful to find another stash of ancient Egyptian animal mummies."

Hawass said the mummies date from sometime during the late ancient Egyptian period—between the sixth and third centuries B.C.

The mummies were all wrapped in well-spun ancient linen.

Not So Unusual

It's not unusual for people to stumble upon antiquities in Egypt.

The 2,500 year-old catacombs of Alexandria, for instance, were discovered in 1900 when a farmer's donkey disappeared into a sinkhole.

Hawass said he learned of the bird mummies at Mahalla—now Egypt's biggest state-owned textile company—only this year.

The mummies' origins remain a mystery, and a spokesperson for the Egyptian ministry of investment, which owns the factory, didn't return calls and emails seeking comment about how the birds arrived at the factory.

Mahalla was recently in the news for an entirely different reason—the site's 20,000 restive workers. Last December they went on giant wildcat strikes, part of a wave of labor unrest that continued for several months across Egypt.

It remains unclear what other ancient antiquities might be squirreled away among Egypt's thousands of state-owned businesses.

"There are new discoveries every day in Egypt," Hawass said.

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