Did you know that ancient Egyptians mummified animals as well as humans?
(Click here to see a photo of a mummified cat )
Animals were reared mainly for food, whilst others were kept as pets.
Animals of all kinds were important to the Ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians understood the animals' characteristics and admired them, especially those that were dangerous or had powers human beings lacked. They believed animals were symbols, for example, the beetle - the Egyptians noticed how it buries itself and therefore used it as a symbol of survival.
Particular powers of each Egyptian god were symbolised by animals with similar characteristics.
The Ancient Egyptians realised that these dogs are able to find the good part of old meat and eat that part and not die. They also ravaged the desert graves in ancient times. The jackal was used as a symbol in the judgement death scene - where a heart is weighed by Anubis (the god with a jackal head) to tell the good and bad heart.
Click here for information on jackals
Cats were very important animals in Ancient Egypt, they were both pets and symbols of cat gods such as Bast.
The domesticated cat was a symbol of grace and poise because of the way it hunts its prey.
More information on Bast
The most famous Ancient Egyptian insect is the Scarab Beetle. The Egyptian name for the scarab was Kheper.
The scarab beetle was the most important *amulet worn by ancient Egyptians. It was symbolically as sacred to the Egyptians as the cross is to Christians.
*An amulet was worn to protect the wearer against evil and was worn on a chain, cord, or strap.
The Egyptians believed that Scarabs were associated with the Egyptian god, Khepri. It was Khepri that pushed the sun across the sky, just like a Scarab bettle would roll a ball of dung. The scarab beetle became an ancient Egyptian symbol for rebirth, the ability to be reborn. Each day the sun disappeared, always to rise again and be reborn the following day.
The scarab beetle was also a symbol of rebirth after death. When the Egyptians mummified a body they would remove the heart and put a a stone carved like the beetle in its place.
What are Scarab Beetles?
The Egyptians both respected and feared the power of the crocodile as they were a real danger to them. The Nile, which was full of crocodiles, was important to the livelihood of the Egyptians. It therefore made good sense to have a god which could appease these ferocious beasts.
Crocodiles were represented by the god called Sobek. Possessing the strength and nature of a crocodile, which Egyptians would both fear and respect, he was a symbol of the Pharaoh's power.
The hippopotamus was a danger to boats on the river Nile, and to people working on or near the river banks. Egyptians feared them because of their huge mouths, teeth, and size and their aggressive natures when angered. However, Egyptians also saw them as symbols of rebirth. The hippo is represented in the goddess Tauret (Taweret), who protects women in childbirth.
Animals were very important to Egyptian farmers. Animals helped them with jobs like trampling in the seeds, pulling the plough, eating unwanted grain or wheat and providing the Egyptians with food and drink. They kept animals such as cattle, goats, pigs, ducks, cows, and geese.
View the animals considered important to the ancient Egyptians.
The Animals of Ancient Egypt
Animals of the River Nile
Many different types of animals, birds, and fish all call the Nile River home.
Animals and the Ancient Egyptian Gods