ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian bestiary: Reptiles
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Uromastyx from Karnak.
© Nadine Guilhou[1]
Ptyodactylus from Karnak.
© Nadine Guilhou[1]
    All lizards and geckos among them have a common hieroglyphic sign: aSA and were rarely distinguished as different kinds by the Egyptians, but it is known that "white lizard" referred to the gecko.[1] In depictions too, different species are only in a few cases shown with enough details, so that they can be identified.
    In reality lizards are mostly inoccuous, but as ingredients in spells they should have proved deadly, if ancient spellbooks are to be believed:
You put a two-tailed lizard into the oil and [cook] it, and anoint the man with it; then [he dies(?)].
You wish to produce a skin-disease on a man and that it shall not be healed, a hantous-lizard[and (?)] a hafleele-lizard, you cook them with [oil (?)], you wash the man with them.
    In tomb depictions lizards are often shown as being held up in a threatening gesture by protective genies, apparently warding off threats to the deceased such as necrophagic insects.[1]
    Lizards were generally not preserved. Only at Lisht have monitor and other lizards been found in great numbers interred in jars dating from the Roman period.[2]


[1] Nadine Guilhou: "Lézards et geckos dans l'Égypte ancienne" at IVe Rencontres archéozoologiques de Lattes, UMR 5140 - CNRS, Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, 26 juin 2009
[2] Geraldine Pinch: Magic in Ancient Egypt, 1995 University of Texas Press, p.80

© February 2014