This species was first described from mummified specimens, found at Sakkara in Ancient Egyptian tombs, and included in the genus Sorex, the neotype having been collected from near Giza.
(To the ancient Egyptians, the shrew represented the nocturnal side of Horus;
see Animal mummy #Miscellaneous animals.)
The valid name is Crocidura olivieri. Large shrews of this type still live in Egypt and it is presumed that the holotype, which has been lost, resembled them closely. Now, the original name of Crocidura flavescens is used for a different species, found solely in South Africa. About fifteen subspecies have been proposed in the past and there are dark colour morphs and pale colour morphs, however, biochemical evidence shows that all are variations of a single, but highly variable species.