ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian bestiary: Molluscs
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Pila ovata-

Pila ovata, a fresh water snail, feeds on Biomphalaria eggs among other things
Source: Petrie Museum website, UC39127

    Certain kinds of small fresh water snails such as Biomphalaria alexandrina have been playing an important, until modern times unrecognized, role in the public health of Egypt. They are hosts for one of the developmental stages of the parasitic worm which causes schistosomiasis. As many ancient Egyptians had occasion to wade through a canal, bathe in the river or an artificial pond, or drink river water the disease was endemic in the country.
cowrie shell     But most molluscs had little impact on Egypt and its culture:

Cowrie shell on original string
3rd Intermediate Period
Source: Petrie Museum website, UC37162

  • Snail-shells served as musical instruments in the pre-dynastic: During the Naqada Period they were occasionally used as whistles, and in later times as rattles.
  • As food they played a small role since earliest times. In this function they were probably most popular among the Romans.
  • Shells were occasionally used for ornaments and amulets. The cowrie shell because of its form suggesting female genitalia was a symbol for fecundity.
  • Spoon and ladle-sized sea shells were used as scoops
    Among the marvels of Punt Queen Hatshepsut offered the temple of Amen were among other things
Electrum, eye-cosmetics, throw-sticks of the Puntites, ebony, ivory, shells
J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt Part Two, , § 272

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