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Baboons in captivity in Ancient Egypt: Collection of mummies offers insights

Still Waters

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Baboons were raised in captivity before being mummified in Ancient Egyptian sites, according to a study published December 6, 2023 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Wim Van Neer of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium and colleagues.

For over a millennium, from the 9th Century BC to the 4th Century AD, ancient Egyptians venerated and mummified various animal species for religious purposes. Included among these animals were baboons, notably species not native to ancient Egypt, and not much is known about how these animals were acquired and kept.

In this study, the researchers examined a collection of baboon mummies from the ancient Egyptian site of Gabbanat el-Qurud, the so-called Valley of the Monkeys on the west bank of Luxor.




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Baboons were considered sacred in Egypt because they were thought to commune directly with the gods. 

Every morning when the sun (the god RA) began to rise, baboons were observed to face it, tilt their heads back and raise their arms. What they were doing was reacting to the warming of the temperature after the night’s chill. But to the ancient Egyptians they were praying to Ra, giving thanks for his return.

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