ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian bestiary: Baboons
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Source: Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam

    Baboons, like other monkeys, were sometimes mummified. At Saqqara more than a hundred olive baboon mummies have been found, but strangely none of Hamadryus baboons.

    Thoth was often represented as a Hamadryus baboon, sitting on the scales on which the heart of the deceased is weighed and writing down the result.
I have made for thee slendid balances of electrum, the like of which have not been made since the time of the god. Thoth sat upon it as guardian of the balances being a great and august ape of gold in beaten work.
Papyrus Harris
J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Four, §256
    Giant magical baboons were sometimes invoked to protect from drowning
Hail to you, baboon of seven cubits whose eyes are electrum, whose lips are fire, and each of whose words is a glowing flame. Keep steady the swimmer, so that I may go forth in safety!

J.F. Borghouts, Ancient Egyptian Magical Texts

    Baboons were part of the Nubian tribute, and they were apparently kept as pets. In the Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor the sailor received many precious commodities as parting gift from the lord of the island on which he had found himself stranded:
Then he gave me a load of myrrh, Hknw-oil, laudanum, Xsyt-spice, tiSpss-spice, perfume, eye-paint, giraffe's tails, great lumps of incense, elephant's tusks, greyhounds, long-tailed monkeys, baboons, and all kinds of precious things.
M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol.1, p.214

© 2002