Where Doves Lie The Significance of Eight Turtle Doves Buried in the Dendara Necropolis

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Mary Hartley
Yann Tristant



During recent excavations in the Dendara necropolis, skeletal evidence for at least eight complete turtle doves (Columbidae) was discovered in the burial chamber of a Dynasty 4 tomb. A large number of disarticulated tiny bird bones was found scattered beneath and around a broken Meydum-bowl, buried deep within piles of rubble. Zooarchaeological analysis indicated that at least eight birds had originally been buried. The fact that they were complete and found in a burial chamber in association with a Meydum-bowl suggested they were part of a funerary offering. The depiction of multiple bird species used as funerary offerings in the Old Kingdom tombs at Saqqara and Giza is well documented, indicating that birds were a significant element of the list of funerary offerings. Often the different species of birds were named in the tomb scenes, and frequently pigeons and doves were included. However, very little skeletal evidence exists in the archaeological record to support the theory that pigeons and doves were regularly used as funerary offerings. Therefore, the skeletal remains of eight complete turtle doves in conjunction with a Meydum-bowl found deep within a burial chamber of a provincial tomb adds impetus to the argument that not only they were a very desired component of Old Kingdom funerary offerings in the tombs of the important Saqqara and Giza necropolises, but also in the tombs of provincial officials.


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