Archaeologists were stunned when they discovered a 1,500-year-old sacred ibis inside an ancient Egyptian mummy they had originally presumed to be a hawk.
Researchers at Cornell University don’t even know how they came to own the artifact, as they have no record of it ever arriving.
But after sending the historical object for a full examination at a CT scan, it revealed details of the bird’s life in amazing clarity.
The scientists saw carefully preserved feathers and delicate tissue, as well as finding a fracture in the creature’s legs.
Buzzing Carol Ann Barsody, a masters student in archaeology at the university, said: "Not only was this once a living creature that people of the day may have enjoyed watching stroll through the water.
"It also was, and is, something sacred, something religious."
Throughout ancient Egypt, the ibis bird – famed for its thin legs and curbed beak – was valued highly.
Unfortunately for the ibis, this meant it was often sacrificed in rituals to the Egyptian god of wisdom and music, Thoth.
The scan originally revealed that the big bird’s head had been rotated in the opposite way to its body.
Confused researchers had to refer to their Museum of Vertebrates’ collection to piece together the iris in the way it was originally prepared centuries ago.
This was made more difficult because the bird’s sternum and ribcage had been taken out before it was mummified – a rarity for most bird preservation procedures.
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But despite all their findings, the one thing the researchers still don’t know is where the bird came from.
They had first presumed it dated back to an 1884 arrival of freight objects from ancient Egypt, along with a human mummification dubbed Penpi.
But the archeologists quickly realised this wasn’t the case and instead now think its most likely origins go back to a 1930 donation by a Cornell alumnus John Randolph.
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