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Shrew Culture, Myths, Stories and Poisonous Facts...

Shrews in Ancient Egypt

Examples of the role of shrews in ancient Egypt: Left, a small bronze dedicated to the winged god Horus; Right, hieroglyphs from the Kahun papyrus.

(Figures by Brunner-Traut 1965, reproduced from Hutterer, R., 1994, with permission)

Mummified shrews that were found in the ceremonial animal tombs of Akhmim near Thebes, Egypt, date from the 27th dynasty (2400 yr B.P) and represent six species.
Shrews and other vertebrates had an important place in the religion of the ancient Egyptians, particularly in the late dynasties (Lurker 1974). Together with nightjars, mongooses, snakes, toads, and beetles they formed the terrestrial animals "coming from the dark", whereas falcons and swifts formed the animals of the light (Kessler 1989). In the view of Brunner-Traut (1965), shrews and mongooses may have represented two sides (night and day, dark and light) of the same deity. Along the Nile the Egyptians built many animal cemeteries, for which they used the term "restingplaces of the God Osiris-animal" (Kessler 1989).
(Text, shortened, taken from: Hutterer 1994).
The extinct shrew species: Crocidura balsamifera

Further literature:
453 Boessneck, J. (1988). Die Tierwelt des Alten Ägypten. C.H. Beck, München, 197 pp.
578 Brunner-Traut, E. (1965). Spitzmaus und Ichneumon als Tiere des Sonnengottes. Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, I, Philologisch-Historische Klasse 1965, 7: 123-163.
2130 Heim de Balsac, H., P. Mein (1971). Les musaraignes momifées des hypogées des Thebes. Existence d'un metalophe chez les Crocidurinae (sensu Repenning). Mammalia 35: 220-224.
2373 Hutterer, R. (1994). Shrews of ancient Egypt: Biogeographical interpretation of a new species. Pp. 407-414. In: J.F. Merritt, G.L. Kirkland Jr., R.K. Rose (eds.). Advances in the Biology of Shrews. Carnegie Museum of Natural History Special Publication no. 18, x + 458 pp.
2737 Kessler, D. (1989). Die heiligen Tiere und der König. Teil I. Beiträge zu Organisation, Kult und Theologie der spätzeitlichen Tierfriedhöfe. Ägypten und Altes Testament, O. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 16: 1-303, 10 pls.
3227 Lortet, L., C. Gaillard (1903). La faune momifée de l'ancienne Egypte. I. Archives du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Lyon 8: 1-205, pl. 1-5.
3246 Lurker, M. (1974). The gods and symbols of ancient Egypt. Thames and Hudson, London, 142 pp.

(References taken from "The Shrew Bibliography")

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