Ancient Egypt was a paradise of many varieties of animals, including a diversity of birds, crocodiles of the Nile, hyenas, lions, leopards, gazelles, ostrich, and deer of the grassy savannahs. Ancient Egyptians used a variety of weapons on the hunt including, spears, arrows, throw-sticks, nets, and a boomerang type of weapon. Ancient Egyptians also used animals to hunt other animals, greyhound dogs were popular and tame cheetahs may have been used in the hunt. There is evidence that nobles and pharaohs kept wild animals and even tried breeding them. Queen Hatshepsut kept wild animals such as baboons, giraffes, cheetahs, and exotic birds imported from the land of Punt. King Akhenaten built a wild animal enclosure. This is the reason why animals unknown to the environment have been found in tomb paintings.
The first hunts in ancient Egypt were done on foot and close to home. After the first three dynasties extended their cultivated areas and drained the marshes, most of the larger game moved out of the area. Chariots were used after their introduction and were mainly used by the pharaoh. Pharaohs and nobleman were the only ones privileged enough to hunt large game. Since domestication of animals was occurring in ancient Egypt, hunting wild game was regarded as the sport of kings and dignitaries. The Pharaoh employed a master of the hunt along with an audience and a specialized group called beaters. The Pharaoh usually hunted gazelle, antelope, ibex, little ox, Barbary sheep, and ostriches. Although hyenas, lions, and leopards were hunted it was rare because it took a great amount of courage and skill to kill these beasts. Group hunting was common too; a mass amount of animals were killed with a volley of arrows or killed when vulnerable near a watering hole. Perhaps this was a form of commercial hunting. Hunters were familiar with the animals they hunted such as the food they ate, mating habits, and the diseases they carried ensuring a successful hunt. Ancient Egyptians were like the Native Americans in the sense that they both prayed to gods and spirits asking for safety and success of a hunt.
The peasants of ancient Egypt ate meat, but nowhere close to what the rich feasted on. The rich of ancient Egypt feasted on the most meat, simply because they were the ones hunting and they were the ones who could afford it. Peasants did hunt but it was usually geese, ducks, cranes, and quails that they ate. Both upper and lower classes ate beef, although the rich ate it frequently and the poor ate it only on festive holidays along with sheep and goats. Pork was eaten, but was looked down upon because it has an association with the evil god, Seth.
Hunting was an active sport in ancient Egypt, but large game whether it was imported or domestic was reserved for the upper class. The poor hunted but it was animals of lesser value. Hunting was entertainment for the pharaoh and nobles, but they also did consume the meat and kept the hides.
www.touregypt.net/featurestories/hunting.htmWritten by Adam Erickson, 2002
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