ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian bestiary: Weasels
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5th dynasty depiction of a weasel, desert plants. Note the correct length of the animal's snout.
Source: BIFAO 85, 1985, p.27
    A number of weasel species inhabit North Africa, among them the Saharan Striped Weasel, Poecilictis libyca or Ictonyx libyca . It looks somewhat like a skunk with its black head and body and longitudinal white stripes, and like the skunk it excretes bad smelling liquid from its anal glands when attacked. It is smaller than the Libyan polecat, and weighs less than a kilogram and has a body length of up to 30 centimetres and a long, bushy tail. Another weasel found in Egypt is the Egyptian Weasel, Mustela subpalmata. Weasels are predatory, living on small rodents, lizards and the like.
    Whether the ancient Egyptians differentiated between the various, very similar species of Mustelidae is doubtful. They referred to them as gsfn.w, and there are a number of depictions dating from the Old Kingdom. Not every Egyptologist would do much more than hazard a guess, precisely which animal species this term refers to. S. Aufrère calls it a "Zorilla", but Beinlich, for instance, prefers to talk of a "small desert animal", while the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae ventures a guess: "A badger ?". Weasels

Weasels giving birth. On the right the entrance to a burrow.
Solar temple of Niuserre, 5th dynasty
Source: BIFAO 85, 1985, p.25


Sidney Aufrère, Etudes de lexicologie at d'histoire naturelle, VII, in BIFAO 85 (1985), pp.23-32

© June 2007
October 2009