Clip | Egypt's Darkest Hour - Sacred Crocodile Mummies Reveal the Climate of Ancient Egypt

In her desire to find out more about the circumstances leading to a mysterious mass burial, archaeologist Salima Ikram travels to Kom Ombo temple where ancient Egyptians worshipped Sobek, a god with the head of a crocodile.

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The ones that were recognized by the priests as having the divine spirit in them were allowed to grow to their full length, 5, 6 meters, and during the lifetime of that animal he would be fed and revered and looked after and spoilt rotten in general.

Some of them according to the Greek writers had earrings of gold and bracelets made of gold put on them, so someone had to be very brave to go and do this to the god.

and after their death the crocodiles were carefully mummified.

Surprisingly, these sacred crocs can provide details on ancient Egypt's climate.

In 2003, zoologists studied crocodiles living in isolated pools in Mauritania and Chad.

These West African crocs are smaller and more docile than the more familiar Nile crocodiles found in East Africa today.

And DNA analysis has revealed these smaller animals are in fact a separate species called Crocodylus Suchus.

The DNA analysis also revealed they are the exact same species as the sacred ancient Egyptian crocodiles.

Recently we''ve been doing DNA on mummified crocodiles and the results have been truly spectacular because we did a huge crocodile from Kom Ombo and it turned out to be Crocodylus suchus which is a desert crocodile.

In a way it makes sense that the nicer, kinder gentler ones were allowed to grow and sort of co-habit with humans and be the benign version of the crocodile god.

How did the Pharaoh's sacred crocodiles end up on the other side of the African continent?

And what does that mean for ancient Egypt's climate?

So we know that we have mummified Suchus in Egypt and we know that we have living Suchus, quite a few of them in fact in the deserts of Mauritania as well as in Chad.

So here we''ve got these populations that are quite far apart but they''re the same animal.

So what was going on here?

We started to look for fossils to see if we could find any other evidence that could link these different populations of crocodiles together.

and throughout the Sahara we''ve in fact found lots of fossils of crocodiles in Libya; Niger; in Mali; throughout Algeria and also in Morocco.

So that means that, in ancient times, of all this space must have been connected by a series of waterways for the crocodiles to move to and fro and it wasn''t always the desert that it is today.