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Animals In Ancient Egypt Essay

1201 words - 5 pages

In ancient Egypt there was no unified belief system, instead a wide variety of different belief systems and practices which varied widely depending on location, time period and social class. Throughout the chaos of different religions in ancient Egypt one factor remained the same, animals.
Animals of all kinds were significant to the Ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians understanding of specific animal’s characteristics was broad and extensive, but often was limited to animals that had powers that humans lacked. The ancient Egyptians believed animals were symbols. For example - the Egyptians noticed how the beetle it buries itself and therefore used it as a symbol of survival.
Ancient Egyptians had varied relationships with animals; the lucky animals were pets or helped with agriculture, the unfortunate animals were either food or offerings to the gods. The ancient Egyptian gods and goddess were depicted as animals, shown by an animal itself, a combination of different animals or human bodies with animal heads, but this is not literally referring to them as animals. The representations were symbolic of certain qualities or characteristics of certain animals.

The ancient Egyptians did not worship the animals themselves, just the qualities and characteristics. A clear example of this is Horus, the sky god, who was said to have falcon-like qualities. He was depicted as a falcon but with other bird of prey qualities such as hawk, raptor and eagle qualities for his high intelligence, good vision and swift reflexes.
After 1554 BC, Ancient Egypt civilisation was run by pharaohs, considered to be half-man, half-god Pharaohs were believed to have spirits which lasted eternity. Pharaohs had to be protected; the cobra was the protector from evil because its defence display is to have its hood dilated, in the stance known as uraeus. First created by the goddess Isis, who formed it out of dust and the sun god, she gained the throne of Egypt for her husband using the uraeus. Often placed near the vulture Nekhebet, they worked together, symbolising unification of two lands.
During the time period of around 3,000 years ago to 2,000 years ago, ancient Egypt experienced major changes which naturally affected their lifestyle and religion. The connection between the gods and goddesses and animals grew during this time, causing a shift in ideals, were animals themselves became sacred. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian noted, about 2,400 years ago that those who even accidentally killed a sacred animal were killed themself. “It is a capital offense designedly to kill say one of these animals; to destroy one accidentally is punishable by a fine, determined by the priests; but whoever, however involuntary kills an ibis or hawk cannot by any means escape death” Herodotus
The most intimate of relationship between ancient Egyptians and animals, was cats, believed to have been the first civilisation to domesticate cats around 4,000 to 3,500 years ago....

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