The ancient Egyptians were renowned for their worship of animals, and one of these was the baboon. In ancient Egyptian mythology, baboons are best known for their association with Thoth, the god of wisdom. In addition to their role in mythology, baboons also had a place in the society of ancient Egypt. They are commonly known to have been kept as pets, and mummified remains of these creatures have been discovered by archaeologists. In addition, baboons (or monkeys) have also been shown in Egyptian art to be participating in various human activities, including dancing and playing musical instruments, picking fruit, making wine and beer, and even catching criminals. …
As sacred animals, baboons were kept in temples, and cared for by their priests. Nevertheless, they were also kept as pets by those who could afford them, though for largely ritualistic purposes. Still, such pets were not always treated well by their owners. In Hierakonpolis, for instance, archaeologists have discovered a cemetery with the remains of various animals, including baboons, that were once kept as pets. The bones of the baboons suggest that they had been beaten repeatedly whilst they were alive. This cemetery is about 5000 years old, and dates to the end of the Pre-Dynastic period / the beginning of the Early Dynastic period. Therefore, it has been suggested that at this point of time, the ancient Egyptians were only beginning to learn how to keep animals as pets, and the beatings were meant to keep the baboons in line. As the Egyptians became better handlers, fewer beatings were administered to their pets, as seen in the remains of baboons from later periods.
In some works of ancient Egyptian art, baboons (or monkeys) are shown engaging in human activities. Some of these, like harvesting fruits from tall trees, could be plausible. In some parts of the world, monkeys are known to be trained to harvest fruits. In a tomb from the 12th Dynasty, baboons are even shown to be competing with humans for the collection of fruit. Other baboon jobs, such as helping with alcohol production or rigging boats, seem a little more fantastical. Nevertheless, given that baboons were considered to be intelligent animals, it would not then be too surprising if the ancient Egyptians imagined baboons could do such activities.
21 Feb 2017