ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian bestiary: Storks and flamingoes
Main menu Main Index and Search Page History List of Dynasties Cultural chronology Mythology Aspects of Life in Ancient Egypt Glossary of ancient Egyptian terms Herodotus on the pharaohs Ancient Egyptian texts Apologia and Bibliography

  For best results save the whole webpage (pictures included) onto your hard disk, open the page with Word 97 or higher, edit if necessary and print.
  Printing using the browser's print function is not recommended.


Storks and flamingoes

[Image: Stork, Source: MfA]- Stork, 12th dynasty
Source: W.S.Smith, Country Life in Ancient Egypt, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

    The Egyptian word for "soul" (or the like), bA, is written with the Saddlebill Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) hieroglyph saddlebill. This is an African stork variety living in tropical, water rich environments. It nests on trees and has one or two eggs per clutch. The Saddlebill is up to one and a half metres tall and has a wingspan of 270 cm. It is a predator, feeding on fish, frogs, small reptiles, young birds etc. Like the White Stork it is generally silent, only clattering with its bill when meeting its mate on the nest.
    White Storks which breed in Europe migrate through Egypt on their way to southern Africa and only rarely spend the winter there.

Flamingo- Flamingo

    The pinkish Greater Flamingoes (lat. Phoenicopterus ruber, Egyptian dSr dSr) on the other hand often hibernate in Egypt. Until the 19th century CE they used to live in the saline lakes along the Mediterranean coast. They are attested in Delta sites since the Middle Kingdom.[1]
    It is unclear whether predynastic and Old Kingdom depictions of flamingo-like birds should be identified as such. They often have characteristics of other birds as well, such as ostriches or ibises.[3] Also a logographic reference to dSr in the tomb of Mehu
Fetch, you who are with me, the flamingo cage!
Tomb of Mehu, 6th dynasty [2]
may just denote a biggish bird. New Kingdom representations on the other hand are quite realistic.[3]
    Flamingos were hunted and eaten in ancient Egypt and were still a popular dish in Roman times.[4]


Stan Hendrickx, "Autruches et flamants - les oiseaux représentés sur la céramique prédynastique de la catégorie Decorated" in Cahiers Caribéens d’Egyptologie n°1, février/mars 2000
Salima Ikram, Choice cuts: meat production in ancient Egypt, Peeters Publishers, 1995

[1] Hendrickx 2000, p.27
[2] Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website: Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Grabinschriften => Sakkara => Unas-Friedhof => Grabkomplex des Mehu => Texte aus dem Mehu-Grab => Torraum => Südwand
[3] Hendrickx 2000, p.28
[4] Ikram 1995, p.28

July 2009