ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian plants: Introduction
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.



    Bindweeds of the Convolvulaceae-family are common weeds in the Mediterranean infesting irrigated fields and grow in Egypt among both winter and summer crops.[1] The marshes with their papirus plants to which convolvulus could attach itself, were its natural habitat in ancient times. The plant's eradication is difficult, as its roots are long and have to be uprooted completely to prevent regrowth. The Egyptians seem to have noticed that and associated the plant with hardiness and birth.
convolvulus, J. G. Wilkinson, p.258     Depictions are very often quite abstracted and the plant is at times difficult to identify. Some authors may well use cautious formulations, as "A trailing plant with pointed leaves, in scenes showing women suckling their infants in leafy bowers, may be bindweed."[2]

Offering of convolvulus.[3]

    Convolvulus was represented frequently during the New Kingdom. Its leaves and flowers were often part of wreaths and garlands, but were also among the plants to be offered to the gods on their own.[3] In a scene of mourning for princess Meketaten, bindweed is twined around the papyrus columns holding up the canopy above the statue of the princess.[4] On ostraca found at Deir el Medina convolvulus is twined around the columns of a canopy under which a woman is suckling her child. The woman is generally naked but for a collar and a girdle.[5]
    The leaves of convolvulus had strong erotic connotations at times. In Nebamun's house at Deir el Medina a female musician is depicted playing the double flute. She is nude, has a tattoo on her thigh and is surrounded by bindweed.[6] The plant is also depicted on the Erotic Turin Papyrus,[7] which shows men and women having sex in a variety of positions. In the tomb of Neferhotep at Thebes a beer drinking woman is depicted, holdin a sistrum, the musical instrument of the goddess of love Hathor and a menat necklace. Beside her is a girl holding a bindweed.[8]
With all these magical associations, it should be no surprise that it was apparently employed in medicine. In a recipe in the Chester Beatty IV papyrus it is used in a treatment for the anus.[9]
J. Worth Estes, The medical skills of ancient Egypt, Science History Publications/U.S.A., 1989
Lise Manniche, Sexual life in ancient Egypt, Routledge, 1987
Lynn Meskell, Private life in New Kingdom Egypt, Princeton University Press, 2002
Lynn Meskell, Archaeologies of social life: age, sex, class et cetera in ancient Egypt, Wiley-Blackwell, 1999
Gay Robins, Women in ancient Egypt, Harvard University Press, 1993
Gay Robins, The Art of Ancient Egypt, Harvard University Press, 2008
Alix Wilkinson, The garden in ancient Egypt, Rubicon Press, 1998
John Gardner Wilkinson, A popular account of the ancient Egyptians, J. Murray, 1854
M. A. Zahran, A. J. Willis, The Vegetation of Egypt, Springer, 2008
[1] Zahran & Willis 2008, p.280
[2] Wilkinson 1998, p.55
[3] Wilkinson 1854, Volume 1, p.57
[4] Robins 2008, p.152
[5] Robins 1993, p.83
[6] Meskell 1999, p.102
[7] Manniche 1987, p.108
[8] Meskell 2002, p.87
[9] Estes 1989, p.141

-Index of Topics
-Ancient Egyptian Botanical
Offsite links(Opening in a new window)
-The bindweeds of Egypt and their symbolic role for the deceased
© November 2009