John Wyatt

A Demonic and Angelic Bestiary?

On-going zoological research into the various animal species depicted in/on tombs, coffins, head rests, wands and Books of the Dead for a Demon/Angel Bestiary is presently raising more questions than answers. Most demons have both aggressive and protective functions suggesting that attack is the best form of defence. How does this relate to why particular species were chosen for depiction? What are those animals and does accurate identification of them down to species level actually matter or, as for many hieroglyphs, is it a particular feature or aspect of familial behaviour which is of more importance? The three small desert foxes of Ancient Egypt – Fennec, African Sand (now Pale) and Ruppell’s – are strictly nocturnal and similar in breeding behaviour. Any one would have been equally suitable to appear on a head rest, so why was only one of them apparently used? Why do some selected species, for example mice, apparently occur nowhere else in Egyptian art? And, where they do, as with the Crocodile, why is the depiction sometimes subtly different? The Crocodile hieroglyph shows a female cradling her “nest” while the demonic version is full head-up assault. Are there also any subtle nuances in the depictions of the same God/Goddess and his/her demonic entity when used in the different contexts, for example those of Bes and Tawaret? This paper begins to examine each of these questions and to put forward some interim suggestions.

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