Archaeologists have uncovered the first example of a lion
mummified by the ancient Egyptians, in the tomb of the woman who
helped rear the Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
Although the breeding and burial of lions as sacred animals in
Egypt is mentioned by ancient sources, to date no one had found a
The male lion is amongst the largest known to science and its
bones show it lived to an old age in captivity.
Details of the discovery are published in the scientific journal
The lion was found in a tomb at Saqqara in northern Egypt
belonging to Maia, wet nurse to Tutankhamun, who was buried in about
However, in the last centuries BC, the tomb was re-used for the
burial of humans and then animals - mostly mummified cats.
French archaeologists Alain Zivie, Cecile Callou, and Anaick
Samzun unearthed the remains of the big cat in November 2001.
It comprises the virtually complete skeleton of a lion (Panthera
leo) which was once mummified.
Bred for mummification
Analysis of the teeth, particularly the wear on them, show that
the lion lived to be very old and must have been kept in captivity.
Alan Lloyd, professor of classics and ancient history at the
University of Wales, Swansea, said: "The lion is a creature that has
a long association with the king [of Egypt].