In fact, X-ray and CT scans show that about a third contains partial remains as minimal as just one bone, while another third are stuffed with organic material like sticks, or items symbolic of animals such eggshells.
Researchers believe the ancient mummies, which include birds, cats, and crocodiles, were used mostly as a popular religious tool to help send up prayers to the gods. The researchers believe that demand outstripped supply, despite what were likely massive animal breeding programs.
Though some critics have pointed to the incomplete bundles as an indication of fraud, researchers say that the recipient may have purchased them based largely on presentation and that those organic materials inside likely have a special significance to the displayed animal.
As many as 70 million animals are thought to have been mummified between the peak time of 800 B.C. through the Roman period. The scientists’ findings and investigation process are part of a BBC documentary special.