Ethological observations in ancient Egyptian art

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Ancient Egyptian art is filled with the images of a wide range of animal species, testimony to the close relationship experienced by the Egyptian people with the animal kingdom, and the important role played by animals in the development of their culture. Egyptologists have been greatly impressed by the morphological accuracy and aesthetic beauty of these representations, characteristics which reveal that the Egyptian artists watched animals very closely. When these images are examined from an ethological perspective, however, it becomes apparent that the Egyptians were also keen observers of animal behaviour. Animals are often shown engaging in a variety of general and species-specific activities, some quite subtle and elusive, suggesting that the behaviour of these creatures was as significant to the Egyptian people as their physical appearance. To date, however, the behaviour contained within this animal imagery has received little scholarly attention. Furthermore, Egyptologists have often misinterpreted these activities, drawing on anthropomorphic impressions rather than the ethological literature to describe what they see animals doing. By comparing Egyptian depictions of animals with current ethological knowledge, we have the opportunity to assess both the range and accuracy of these ancient images, and to perhaps gain some insight into how the Egyptian people perceived animals. Too illustrate the potential of this approach, I will present a selection of images taken from ancient Egyptian wall paintings and contrast them with findings from modern studies of natural history.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2000
EventASSAB 2000 27th Annual Conference - Sydney
Duration: 27 Apr 200030 Apr 2000


ConferenceASSAB 2000 27th Annual Conference

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    Evans, L. (2000). Ethological observations in ancient Egyptian art. 26-26. Abstract from ASSAB 2000 27th Annual Conference, Sydney, .