"Giant" crocodile? Not exactly.
A mummified "giant" crocodile that measures 10 feet (3 meters) in length and is approximately 2,000 years old was more than it appeared to be, curators at the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities recently discovered.
Virtually "unwrapping" a mummy
DNMH curators recently collaborated with visualization group Interspectral, using computed X-ray tomography (CT) scans to peer beneath the crocodile mummy's bandages.
Two for the price of one
The mummy was first scanned in 1996, revealing that the "giant" crocodile was actually two juveniles bound together and padded to resemble one enormous individual.
Dozens of babies
Recent scans of the crocodile mummy, conducted at the Academic Medical Centre (AMC) in Amsterdam, showed an even bigger surprise — dozens of baby crocodile mummies (blue), which were individually wrapped.
Circle of life
The presence of juvenile crocodiles (red) and baby crocodiles (blue) in a single mummy could represent the ancient Egyptian belief in rejuvination and life after death, according to DNMA Egyptologists.
Scanning in 3D
High resolution scans of the mummy were used by Interspectral to create a digital interactive enabling DNMH visitors to conduct a virtual "autopsy" of the mummy and peer at the layers beneath the linen bandages.
"A big surprise"
DNMH curators were surprised and delighted to discover fifty mummified baby crocodiles hidden inside the larger mummy, and recently completed a scientific paper on the importance of high resolution CT scans for antiquities research and outreach.
An offering to a deity
The ancient Egyptians mummified many types of animals, as offerings to their deities. Crocodiles were used to pay homage to the crocodile-headed god, Sobek.
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Mindy Weisberger is a Live Science editor for the channels Animals and Planet Earth. She also reports on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.