Egypt: Animals and Plants of Ancient Egypt

Animals and Plants of Ancient Egypt

The Animals of Ancient Egypt By Caroline Seawright

Along the Nile, some of the multitude of bird-life included the falcon, kite, goose, crane, heron, plover, pigeon, ibis, vulture and owl. It is possible that hens were introduced during the New Kingdom from Africa. Caroline Seawright tells us all about ancient Egyptian animals.

The Dogs of Ancient Egypt by Jimmy Dunn

We, and everyone else it seems has given homage to the cats of ancient Egypt, but dogs too were important, both as symbols of gods and as domesticated animals. Certainly they were pets, but it is difficult to say whether dogs were as beloved by their Egyptian owners as cats. They were never shown as animals to be petted. But as in modern times, their uses were much more diverse. Nevertheless, they were mummified and they were often buried with owners, or sometimes in their own coffins. At Abydos, part of the cemetery was set aside for dogs near the graves of women, archers and dwarfs.

The Egyptian 'Lotus' Nymphaea Caerulea, the Blue Water Lily by Caroline Seawright

Called a 'lotus', the depictions of the floral symbol of Upper Egypt is actually known as a Nymphaea caerulea which is actually known today to be a water lily. This flower, along with the papyrus flower, was shown throughout Egypt in tombs and temples to symbolize the union of Upper and Lower Egypt, but the blue water lily had a much deeper significance to the Egyptian people. The Egyptians saw that the blue water lily opened up each morning, seeing the intense golden center set against the blue petals, seemingly an imitation of the sky that would greet the sun, releasing sweet perfume.

The Lions of Egypt by Jimmy Dunn

It is interesting that, during most of the Pharaonic period, lions were relatively few in Egypt, but were at the same time significant to the Pharaonic Egyptians. Today, we know of no wild lions in Egypt. Their number declined steadily as the more lush climate of the prehistoric period faded into the desert climate that most of Egypt knows today, and as the inhabitable land of Egypt became more and more densely populated. However, it was probably during the prehistoric times that they became a symbol with religious associations. It is likely that the connection between the king and the lion grew from the tribal chiefs hunting these animals during the Predynastic period, just as they did Hippopotamus and Crocodiles, which no longer inhabit Egyptian waters above Lake Nasser.

Pigs in Ancient Egypt by Marie Parsons

There is some divided speculation about the existence and usage of pigs in ancient Egypt. Was the Set-animal a pig, and therefore was the creature considered taboo since Set was thought to be an "evil" god? Was the pig connected with trichinosis and therefore thought unfit to eat? Was it simply considered unclean because of its particular habits? Did it exist at all in Egypt?

Strange (Fantastic) Animals of Ancient Egypt by Jimmy Dunn

No one would accuse the ancient Egyptians of not having very well honed imaginations. Statuary of gods often depicted half animal, half human forms, but the Egyptians also found in their creativity fantastic animals of a different sort. Essentially, they took parts of various animals in order to create a whole not found in nature. Hence, here we will consider only creatures without human parts, even though both such creatures, for example, appear in the same context at times such as on magic wands. Usually, such animals were considered demonic according to our modern concepts, though in fact the Egyptians seem not to have made nearly so specific distinctions between demons and gods.

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