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That's a wrap! Egyptian mummy 'scandal' exposed

From cutting corners and bodge jobs to outright fraud, failing to deliver a promised service is the scourge of modern business. But it seems to be an age-old problem: the Ancient Egyptian mummy industry wasn't above a bit of sharp practice when struggling to keep up with consumer demand, a BBC news report said Monday.

Research done in the U.K. by the Manchester Museum and the University of Manchester on 800 Ancient Egyptian animal mummies, bought by people in order to make religious offerings, showed that a third of the mummies didn't contain any animal material at all.

Instead, researchers found bits of shell and feathers in those mummies, signalling that the huge demand for the votive animal mummies may have outstripped the number of mummies that Egyptian embalmers could supply.


A mummified crocodile from 332-30 B.C.
Matt McClain for the Washington Post | Getty Images
A mummified crocodile from 332-30 B.C.

The project, in which mummies ranging from cats and birds to crocodiles were scanned to identify their contents, was followed by the BBC's "Horizon" program.

Alongside human mummification, the ancient Egyptian burial practice, animal mummification was big business in Egypt with scientists estimating that up 70 million animals – many of which were mass-bred to keep up with the demands of the Egyptians' religious practices -- may have been mummified by the Egyptians.

"The scale of animal mummification between about 800 BC and into the Roman period was huge," Dr Price, curator of Egypt and Sudan, at Manchester Museum, told the BBC.

"Animal mummies were votive gifts. Today you'd have a candle in a cathedral; in Egyptian times you would have an animal mummy."

Read more on the BBC's mummy report here.

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt.