Divine Bull

This bull lived like a god in a special stable within the temple walls.

Priests massaged his body, decorated his horns with ornaments of silver, and even sang to him. Egyptians saw him as a living manifestation of a god, and worshippers filled the temple daily to honor him.

When the bull died, Egyptians believed he went on to eternal life, and a young bull with the same distinctive markings took his place. Many temples honored other sacred animals—for example, crocodiles that embodied the god Sobek in the temple at Kom Ombo, and cats of Bastet at Bubastis. When a divine bull died, the entire region fell into mourning. Priests held an elaborate funeral and buried him in an underground niche.

Although at least nine layers of wrappings protect this bull, the x-ray below reveals only a jumble of bones inside. Some scholars suggest that priests or the king ate the meat to partake of the god’s powers. Embalmers mummified the head, however, and held a ritual to allow the bull to see, eat, and hear forever.


  • Title: Bull Mummy and Rope
  • Location: Dashur, Lower Egypt, Egypt, Africa
  • Type: Animal Mummy
  • Rights: This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws. http://www.si.edu/termsofuse
  • External Link: View this object record in the Smithsonian Institution Collections Search Center
  • USNM Catalog Number(s): A413942-0
  • Photo Credit: Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History & Smithsonian Institution Archives
  • Historic Period: 300 B.C.-A.D. 400, Late Ptolemaic/Roman Period
  • Field: Archaeology
  • Accession Date: 1956-06-04

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps