Archaeologists have uncovered the first example of a lion mummified by the ancient Egyptians, in the tomb of the woman who helped rear King Tutankhamen.
Although the breeding and burial of lions as sacred animals in Egypt is mentioned by ancient sources, to date no one had so far found a mummified specimen.
The king was thought of as a lion and as having the qualities of a lion. The qualities the Egyptians were interested in, of course, were martial. Inscriptions suggest lions were bred in special animal precincts and buried in sacred cemeteries.
The male lion is amongst the largest known to science and its bones show it lived to an old age in captivity, it was found lying on a rock with its head turned north and its body orientated toward the east.
The tomb is at Saqqara, in northern Egypt, belonging to Maia, wet nurse to Tutankhamen, who was buried in about 1430 BC.
During the last few centuries BC, the site at Saqqara, where the lion was buried, was dedicated to the feline goddess Bastet.
However, in the last centuries BC, the tomb was re-used for the burial of humans and then animals - mostly mummified cats.