Animals in ancient Egyptian religion

Salima Ikram

in The Oxford Handbook of Zooarchaeology

Published in print March 2017 | ISBN: 9780199686476
Published online April 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780191794223 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Animals in ancient Egyptian religion

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  • Archaeology
  • Environmental Archaeology
  • Egyptian Archaeology


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In addition to providing food, companionship, and raw materials for clothing, furniture, tools, and ornaments, animals also played a key role in religious practices in ancient Egypt. Apart from serving as sacrifices, each god had one or more animal as a totem. Certain specially marked exemplars of these species were revered as manifestations of that god that enjoyed all the privileges of being a deity during their lifetime and which were mummified and buried with pomp upon their death. Other animals, which did not bear the distinguishing marks, were mummified and offered to the gods, transmitting the prayers of devotees directly to their divinities. These number in the millions and were a significant feature of Egyptian religious belief and self-identity in the later periods of Egyptian history.

Keywords: Egypt; mummy; deity; sacred animal; votive offerings; ibis; dog; Theban tombs

Article.  5628 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Environmental Archaeology ; Egyptian Archaeology

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