Feb 2, 2017

Ancient Egyptian's Baboon Obsession Laid Hidden Within Luxor Tomb

For Jiro Kondo and his team from Waseda University, it began as just another day of excavating at Luxor, an Egyptian city famous for its temples and other ancient monuments. The researchers were taking care of mundane tasks at an area to the east of the forecourt of the known tomb of Userhat, who was a royal scribe.

"While cleaning the area above the 'rump' to the forecourt, we found a hole," Kondo told Seeker. After entering the hole, he and his team were stunned by what they found: a previously unknown separate chamber.

"The tomb is beautifully decorated and probably dates to the Ramesside period," he said, referring to the span from 1292 to 1069 B.C. "The owner of the tomb is Khonsu, who has the title of 'the royal scribe.'" The ancient Egyptian's name is clearly written in hieroglyphics in the tomb.

Various scenes in the chamber depict Khonsu, his wife, the gods Osiris and Isis, and the ram-headed deities which are thought to be Khnum or Khnum-Re. One detailed painting, however, is perhaps most telling about Khonsu and his likely muse.

"On the north wall of the entrance doorway, we found a scene showing the solar boat of the god Ra-Atum being worshiped by four baboons showing the pose of adoration," Kondo said.

Image of baboons worshipping the early Egyptian god Ra-Atum. The depictions are in the tomb of the royal scribe Konsu at Luxor, Egypt.
Painting of the royal scribe Khonsu, left, shown with his wife in his tomb at Luxor, Egypt.
Ra-Atum was a central ancient Egyptian deity, a sun god through which everything else was created. As for the baboons, they are also sometimes depicted as gods, but are linked to Ra-Atum and were believed to be the spiritual muses of scribes, directing their writing.

Baboons vocalize loudly when the sun rises. They also like to warm themselves in the morning sun, perhaps explaining their mythical connection to Ra-Atum. One may wonder, though, why baboons were depicted at all, since they are not native to Egypt.

Historians suspect that the primates were brought to Egypt from Nubia, which was a region that then encompassed part of Sudan. Based on this latest tomb find, and other ancient Egyptian depictions of baboons, these animals were popular in Egypt and many other parts of Africa.

The world's first known baboon, discovered at a site called Malapa in South Africa, even hails from a region that's often referred to as the Cradle of Humankind.

Read more at Discovery News

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