The animal mummification industry that thrived in ancient Egypt held a secret which was not revealed for almost 3,000 years: around a third of the carefully wrapped religious offerings are boneless - and, for the most part, empty.
Researchers from at Manchester Museum and the University of Manchester reached this conclusion following a study that looked at more than 800 animal mummies.
The project to scan every mummy of animal shapes, from cats and birds to crocodiles, is the largest of its kind. It will culminate with an exhibition opening at Manchester Museum on Thursday Oct. 8, 2015.
Animals Mummified by the Millions in Ancient Egypt
About a third of the X-rayed and CT scanned artifacts do in fact contain complete and remarkably well preserved animals. Another third contain partial remains. The rest is simply empty.
Highlighted in a BBC documentary, the "mummy scandal" was exposed as scan of beautifully crafted animal mummies showed linens padded out with various items.
"Basically, organic material such as mud, sticks and reeds, that would have been lying around the embalmers workshops, and also things like eggshells and feathers, which were associated with the animals, but aren't the animals themselves," Lidija McKnight, an Egyptologist from the University of Manchester, told the BBC.