ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian bestiary: Herons, egrets, bitterns
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Herons, egrets, bitterns

Ama bird
Drawing after a fresco in the tomb of Baqt, Beni Hassan
Source: Champollion, Monuments de l'Egypte et fe la Nubie, 1846, t.IV, pl.CCCL
Night herons
Night Herons
    Many members of this family are migratory and pass through Egypt, like the Squacco Heron and the Little Egret. Others winter by the Nile, like the Cattle Egret and the Great White Egret. Night Herons and Little Bitterns may spend the summer.
    Herons live in wetlands and feed mostly on fish, though they eat all kinds of small animals, such as lizards, mice, worms, etc as well. The night heron, in contrast to other members of this family, has rather short legs and a short neck.
    Strabo, a first century CE geographer described the night herons found in Egypt as follows:
The nycticorax (night heron) is here peculiar in its character; for with us it is as large as an eagle, and its cry is harsh; but in Egypt it is the size of a jay, and has a different note.
Strabo, Geography
Text scanned and modernized by J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton
    The Egyptian names for birds of the heron family are not easily translated. The Ama-bird, known from the tomb of Baqt at Beni Hassan, has been identified by C. Gaillard with the Little Bittern, a nocturnal bird hiding during the day among the rushes of the Delta swamps. The Wörterbuch does not commit itself and describes the Ama somewhat unhelpfully as a "perching bird".
    SdA-wr, also a divine epithet, is rendered as Great Heron. nwr, which in the Book of the Dead walks around following the magical counsel of the deceased,[2] aHa.w, the form of which Pepi I took on–according to the Pyramid Texts– to rise to the heavens,[3] and Sntj, to change into which required a lengthy spell furnished by the Book of the Dead,[4] carry the heron determinative in their names. The ga is part of a list of cranes, ducks and geese in the tomb of Tiy at Saqqara.[1]

    The benu, bn.w, identified with the phoenix, was a heron-like bird.

[1] Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae: Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Grabinschriften => Sakkara => nördlich der Stufenpyramide => Grab des Tjy => Opferkammer => Südwand => 1. Register v.u. => Vogel-Szene => Vogelbeischriften => Szenentitel
[2] Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae: Totenbuchprojekt, Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften => pLondon BM EA 10477 (pNu) => Tb 064 Lf
[3] Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae:Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Pyramidentexte => Pyramide Pepis I. => Vorkammer => Nordwand => PT 1048
[4] Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae: Totenbuchprojekt, Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften => pLondon BM EA 10477 (pNu) => Tb 083

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