Near the port in the Egyptian town of Berenice, archaeologists have discovered an unusual 2,000-year-old burial site. Scientists stumbled upon a pet cemetery where they found monkeys adorned with shells and buried alongside mummified kittens.
Once upon a time this port was used by the Romans and Egyptians. 3D scans of the remains and comparison of bones show that the animals are similar to the species of monkeys that lived in India. Many of the discovered skeletons belonged to young monkeys, according to experts, this suggests that the animals simply could not adapt to their new home and lack of food. “It was difficult to provide the animals with enough food and water for several weeks of sailing across the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. Unfortunately, when they reached Berenice, they died young,”the authors comment.
When the remains of the monkeys were first recovered, experts believed they belonged to a local species. After a series of tests, the team determined that the animals came to the area from India. Professor Marta Osipinska, zooarchaeologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences, said: "We believe that influential Romans who lived in Berenice, far from home, wanted to brighten up their time with the company of various animals."
The team has no doubts that the monkeys were kept as pets. This is indicated by the way they were buried: in an animal necropolis in the poses of sleeping children. One of the bodies of the animal was covered with woolen cloth, while the other two had large shells on their heads. A piglet and three mummified kittens were also buried next to one of the monkeys.
Osipinska said: “This is a unique find. Until now, no one has found Indian monkeys at archaeological sites in Africa. Interestingly, even ancient written sources do not mention this practice."
The seaport of Berenice was taken from the Egyptians by the Romans, who used it as a link between Egypt, the Middle East and India. The conquerors used this port as a trading post, as specialists discovered a number of surviving goods such as hides and fabrics from China and India.