ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian bestiary: Antelopes

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Ibex, Source: Excerpt, 'Ancient Egypt', Time-Life Books

Source: Excerpt, 'Ancient Egypt', Time-Life Books

    Boats decorated with antelope heads were dedicated to the god Soker, guardian of the desert and of the royal cemeteries near the northern capital Memphis. At first the goddess Satis, Mistress of Elephantine, was worshipped in the form of an antelope, in historic times she wore a headdress consisting of the crown of Upper Egypt and two antelope horns. The Egyptians seem to have made a symbolic connection between the waters of the Nile and the antelope. Just like Satis, another goddess of the cataracts, Anuket, was also represented by an antelope.[3] [Image: Antelope. Source: British Museum website]

Source: British Museum website

    A white antelope was the symbol of the 16th Upper Egyptian nome. In later times a Horus falcon was added to this.
I appointed for thee hunting archers to capture white oryxes, in order to offer them to thy ka at all thy feasts.
From the offerings made by Ramses III to Re at Heliopolis, Papyrus Harris [5]

Dikdik- Dikdik on a leash

From Roman times dates the following, identifying the White Oryx (mA-HD or mH) with the enemy of Osiris, Seth. The connection made in the text between Heben, the capital of the 16th Upper Egyptian nome called White Oryx, with the killing of Evil One is apparently based on a pun:
One says Heben concerning the killing of the Evil One, the White Oryx, from which the Wedjat-eye had been saved.
(And) [one] says (?) [to]
As concerns the
semehu-bark for departing (?), one conveys the ba (Sokar-Osiris) in it on the river. It is (made) of the skin of the White Oryx, as one says, in order to make [the likeness] of the god inaccessible {i.e. holy), when he (i.e. Horus) began to look after the remains of his father (i.e. Osiris) which he had saved from That One (i.e. Seth).
The son of Osiris on the back of the Evil One, the venerable falcon on the White Oryx, that is Hor-merti (Horus in the form of Horus of the Two Eyes), he who is equipped with his possessions, the wretched enemy is fallen (and) underneath his feet.
Book of rituals from the Library at Tebtunis. [4]

antelope Offering. Tomb of Seshemnefer II at Giza  [6]

    Antelopes, desert animals belonging to Seth,[3] were generally hunted, though the straight-horned oryx, quite frequently used for ceremonial sacrifice, was also grown on farms and so were hartebeest (Dbn.w or SsA), as is described in the mastaba of Mereri at Sakkara.[1] The practice of fattening oryx bulls for this purpose was largely discontinued in the New Kingdom, but the sacrifices continued. Takelot II (850825 BCE) of the 22nd dynasty appointed Osorkon as High Priest, and when Osorkon arrived at Thebes...
...he made a great oblation ////// bulls, gazelles, antelopes, oryxes, fattened geese in tens of thousands
Annals of the High Priest Osorkon [7]

Hartebeest palette
Hartebeest palette fragment
Pre-dynastic Period
Source: Petrie Museum website UC8846

    Similar to ancient Asiatic custom, antelopes represented the refreshing night in Egypt too and their images were worn as amulets or incised in artefacts such as the knife of Gebel el-Arak.
    In the following line drawing after depictions in the tomb of Ptahhotep at Saqqara five antelopes are being presented, from right to left: an oryx, an ibex, an addax (also called a Mendes-antelope, nwD.w), and a bubale. The last one may be a Soemmering's gazelle (gsA).
[Image: Antelopes, Ramesseum]
Some antelopes in such drawings have not been identified, though their Egyptian names are known. In a number of tombs at Saqqara Gesa-antelopes (gsA) are being led to the slaughter. The Heben (hbn), too, appears to be an antelope.
    But animals were not only shown being put to death, be it in sacrificial or in hunting scenes. In the mastaba of Nimaatre at Giza (G 2097) there are depictions of animal procreation with the following subtitles:[2]
The copulating of the oryx, the copulating of the jackals, [the copulating] of the ewasels, the copulating /////////, the copulating of the hyaenas, the copulating of the addax, the copulating of the lynx.
reflecting a view of a world in balance, with predators and prey equally multiplying.
[1] Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website => Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Grabinschriften => Sakkara => Teti-Friedhof => Mastaba des Mereri => Raum 1 => Westwand => Tierhaltung
[2] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website => Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Grabinschriften => Gisa => West Field (PM III, 47-179) => Mastaba G 2097 => Grab des Nimaatre => Opferkammer => Ostwand
[3] Philippe Germond, "L'oryx, un mal-aimé du bestiaire égyptien" in Bulletin de la Société dÉgyptologie, Genève 13 (1989)
[4] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website => Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => späte Ritualbächer => Tempelbibliotheken => Bibliothek des Sobektempels von Tebtynis => pFlorenz PSI inv. I 72 => Mythologisches Handbuch für die oberägyptischen Gaue 7-16
[5] J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Chicago 1906, Part Four, §266
[6] Excerpt: Naguib Kanawati, Tombs at Giza, Vol. II, Aris and Phillips Ltd. 2002, pl.32
[7] J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Four, §768

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Changes: May 2009