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Scorpions in Ancient Egypt

Scorpions in Ancient Egypt

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Scorpions in Ancient Egypt
Scorpions in Ancient Egypt

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Occasional Publications in Scorpiology

Scorpions in Ancient Egypt
Hisham K. El-Hennawy

August 2011 – No. 119

edu’ ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Michael E.znet. Washington. York. St. Soleglad. WV 25755-2510. Euscorpius is produced in two identical versions: online (ISSN 1536-9307) and CD-ROM (ISSN 1536-9293). All Euscorpius publications are distributed on a CD-ROM medium to the following museums/libraries: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • ZR. Marshall University. United States National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution). San Francisco. USA MCZ.edu/fet/euscorpius/’ at Marshall University. Library of Congress. California Academy of Sciences. USA CAS.e. Oxford. Russia WAM. however. New York. France NMW. USA USNM. Norway OUMNH. ‘fet@marshall. Huntington. UK MZUC. Museo Zoologico “La Specola” dell’Universita de Firenze. DC. Museum of Comparative Zoology. Amsterdam. Chicago. and book reviews are welcome. Massachusetts. biogeography. Review papers. USA FMNH. Euscorpius is located on Website ‘http://www. England. Norwegian University of Science and Technology. UK NEV. ecology. at the same time maintaining high research standards for the burgeoning field of scorpion science (scorpiology). USA AMNH.com’ Euscorpius is the first research publication completely devoted to scorpions (Arachnida: Scorpiones). Only copies distributed on a CD-ROM from Euscorpius are considered published work in compliance with the ICZN. Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle. descriptions of new taxa. i. ‘soleglad@la. lists of museum collections. Paris. it accepts CD-ROM publications (Article 8). evolution. 1999) does not accept online texts as published work (Article 9. Cambridge. and general biology of scorpions. London. Trondheim. USA. British Museum of Natural History. Euscorpius is an expedient and viable medium for the publication of serious papers in scorpiology. Library Netherlands Entomological Society. UK LC.8). Zoological Record. Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Florence. Field Museum of Natural History. Derivatio Nominis The name Euscorpius Thorell. Zoological Institute. Vienna. Naturhistorisches Museum Wien. Perth. The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN.marshall. for the purposes of new names and new nomenclatural acts.science. Petersburg. Australia NTNU.Euscorpius Occasional Publications in Scorpiology EDITOR: Victor Fet. American Museum of Natural History. DC. Russian Academy of Sciences. 4th Edition. Euscorpius takes advantage of the rapidly evolving medium of quick online publication. faunistic surveys. Italy ZISP. Austria BMNH. including (but not limited to): systematics. Washington. Western Australian Museum. 1876 refers to the most common genus of scorpions in the Mediterranean region and southern Europe (family Euscorpiidae). USA MNHN. Netherlands Publication date: 7 August 2011 .

4). They used the scorpion as a king’s name. and a horned animal. She was mentioned in holy texts of ancient Egypt since the “Pyramids texts” in the Old Kingdom (Fig.com Summary The ancient Egyptians knew the scorpion and its toxicity. who had vanquished all the hosts of darkness and all the powers of physical and moral evil. holding in his hands figures of serpents. scorpions were frequently depicted in tombs and on monuments. clever physicians were given the title of a “Follower of Serqet”. Kamal. 1965). They are mentioned in the Ebers papyrus (“How to Rid the House of Scorpions”) and in several passages of the Book of the Dead (Cloudsley-Thompson. The goddess Serqet also had its place in the sky of Scorpion in the ancient Egyptian myth and the ancient Egyptians. 1901. The dwellers on the Nile in ancient Egypt knew the scorpion and venerated it since pre-dynastic era (Fig. 14. 2011. They had medical prescriptions and magical spells to heal the stings of scorpions (Budge. and a symbol to their goddess Serqet (in addition to other goddesses). and dangerous animals. … The reverse of the stele and the whole of the base were covered with magical texts and spells. and venerated it since pre-dynastic era. which was first noted by Aristotle (384–322 BC) (Cloudsley-Thompson. Egypt. “One who wields power over the goddess Serqet” (or “is powerful over Serqet's venom (Ghalioungui & El-Dawakhly. scorpions. 11). probably the first record of this abnormality. Scorpion I (Fig. among circumpolar stars (Fig. a name of a nome (county). Scorpions are most famously represented on socalled Horus Cippi.” The largest and most important of all these “cippi” is commonly known as the “Metternich Stele” (Budge. 5–7). the title of a “Follower of Serket” was given to clever physicians. and that accompanies them in their journey to the afterlife (Fig. Cairo 11341. to advice on how to get rid of the scorpion and its venom. it became the custom to make house talismans in the form of small stone stelae. On the “Metternich Stele” that was unearthed in 1828 at Alexandria.Euscorpius — Occasional Publications in Scorpiology. El-Manteqa El-Rabia St. and a symbol to their goddess. 3). a lion. and that accompanies them in their journey to the afterlife. with rounded tops. email: el_hennawy@hotmail. 119 Scorpions in ancient Egypt Hisham K. No. El-Hennawy 41. The scorpion figures were also found in rings and other human tools in ancient Egypt (Figs. a name of a nome (county) (Fig. 13). 1990. Serqet. The writings about scorpions found on ancient Egyptian papyri were confined to myths. Fet et al. and when a talisman of this kind was placed in a house. In ancient Egypt. the god of Evil (Fig. scorpions. A drawing of a scorpion with two metasomas was found in the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I (1290–1279 BC). 2) and Scorpion II (Fig. Since the 5th dynasty. the legend of the wanderings . and was given to Prince Metternich by Muhammad Ali Pasha. 1964). the goddess that protects the body and the viscera of the dead (Figs. more than 13 centuries before Pliny the Elder. On the front of such a talisman was sculptured in relief a figure of Horus the Child (Harpokrates). 2009). that protects the body and the viscera of the dead. which rested on bases having convex fronts. Since the 5th dynasty (2465–2323 BC). a talisman featuring Horus the Child holding in his hands figures of serpents. each of these being a symbol of an emissary or ally of Set.. … They are usually called “Cippi of Horus. standing on two crocodiles. 1990). Heliopolis. The ancient Egyptians deified scorpion as Serqet.. or how to heal its sting. Scorpions are most famously depicted on Horus Cippus. 8). reality Scorpions have influenced the imagination of the peoples of the Orient and the Mediterranean since earliest times. 12). when superstition in its most exaggerated form was general in Egypt. Nothing was recorded about geography of scorpions. 15). They had medical prescriptions and magical spells to heal the stings. “Towards the close of the 26th Dynasty. it was supposed to be directly under the protection of Horus and his companion gods. They used the scorpion as a king's name. 1901) (Fig. 10) to the Book of the Dead in the New Kingdom (Fig. 1). 9).

Red arrow points to the scorpion. . 119 Figures 1−2: 1. The Gebel Tjauti tableau in the Theban Desert. Oxford). Red arrow points to the scorpion. probably a record of a military expedition from about 3200 BC. 1998). Figure 3: Macehead of King Scorpion II (Dynasty 0). Hierakonpolis (Ca. and its detail (Ashmolean Museum.2 Euscorpius — 2011. Inscriptions of King Scorpion I (Dynasty 00) (after Dreyer. 3100 BC). No. 2.

to speak to none of the Red Fiends. and heaven was content with the utterance of Isis. I can destroy the devil of death by a spell which my father taught me. Then the scorpion Tefen crawled in under the door of the woman Usert [who had shut it in my face]. O poison of Maatet. I command you by the beloved of Ra. I know how to utter words so that they take effect. And a certain woman of quality spied me as I was journeying along the road. Petet. the town of the Sacred Sandals. went one on each side of me. Hearken to me. whom she had apparently not recognised. there was no water to put it out. So I cried out to her. O poison of Mestet. And their leader brought me to PaSui. but none came out at the sound of her voice. and they shot out their poison on the tail of Tefen. O scorpions. saying. Then they took counsel concerning her. Thetet. I am a woman well known in her town. come forth. and stung her son. between 373 and 360 B.El-Hennawy: Scorpions in Ancient Egypt 3 Figure 4: Scorpion nome (county) on the Tehnu palette. I charged them very carefully and adjured them to make no acquaintance with any one. I speak to you. O poison of Befent. and she went through the town shrieking for help. My words indeed rule to the uttermost limit of the night. The legend is narrated by the goddess herself. rise not up in his body. and Maatet. and she shut her door in my face. his beloved one. Ascend not into heaven.C. And the heart of Usert was sore within her. and I wished the innocent one to live again. Mestet and Mestetef. Come to me! Come to me! There is life in my mouth. two of them. Then the lady Usert was filled with sorrow because she had shut her door in the face of Isis. and she was very sad. at the head of the district of the Papyrus Swamps. As for me. come forth. and fall on the ground. fall on the ground. enter not his body. I am a weaver of spells. I am alone and in sorrow.” Meanwhile the fire in the house of Usert was extinguished. and our names will stink throughout the nomes… The child shall live! The poison shall die! For Ra liveth and the poison dieth. I came to a quarter of the town where women dwelt. the mistress of words of power. though it was not the time of rain. Red arrow points to the scorpion. go no further. of Isis was cut in hieroglyphs during the reign of Nectanebus I. and to keep their gaze towards the ground so that they might show me the way. . I am his daughter. O poison of Mestetef. every reptile that biteth (or stingeth). the egg of the goose which appeareth from the sycamore. and sting with their stings on my behalf. and a fire broke out in it. for she was afraid because of the Seven Scorpions that were with me. and he who is stricken shall likewise be saved. followed behind me. that were to travel with me. the goddess. I am Isis. and I went into the house of this humble woman. fall on the ground. And I was sad for the child's sake. prepared the way for me. and there accompanied me Seven Scorpions. a peasant woman called Taha opened her door. go no further. fall on the ground. who says (extract): “I left the house of Set in the evening. to pay no heed to a servant (?). O poison of Petet and Thetet. Horus shall be saved through his mother Isis. When I arrived at Teb. and three. Two of them. and she brought to the house of the peasant woman gifts for the goddess. pre-dynastic period (Egyptian Museum of Cairo). for she knew not whether her son would live or die. Tefen and Befen.” Then Isis laid her hands on the child and recited this spell: “O poison of Tefent. but the sky sent down rain.

ca. 1350 BC (Egyptian Museum of Cairo.). 119 Figures 5−6: 5.). Red arrow points to the scorpion. 1350 BC (Egyptian Museum of Cairo. New Kingdom. The ancient Egyptian scorpion goddess Serqet as one of the four goddesses protecting the cabinet that contained the viscera of the pharaoh Tutankhamen.4 Euscorpius — 2011. ca. Serqet on the internal alabaster cabinet of canopic jars that contained the viscera of the pharaoh Tutankhamen. 6. . New Kingdom. No.

3). we did not find inscriptions or writings about the kinds and habits of scorpions. They mostly dealt with one scorpion species. and sometimes reduced (Fig. Photograph by Francis Dzikowski. However. and Neit) protecting the sarcophagus of the pharaoh Horemheb. the toxicity and some morphological characters of scorpions in ancient Egypt (El-Hennawy. Nephthys. Luxor. Scorpion biology as seen by the ancient Egyptians Scorpions were mentioned in many ancient Egyptian papyri and inscriptions dealing with myths. Their method to get the poison out of the human body was mainly by magical spells. This probably refers to Leiurus quinquestriatus (Buthidae). especially for children. in brief. Serqet. and that they were well studied from the archaeological point of view. medicine. Theban Mapping Project. in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Inscriptions and drawings of scorpions in the ancient Egypt were sometimes detailed (Fig. 2011). The ancient artist noticed . From this extract. we see that the ancient Egyptians were aware of the toxicity of scorpions. the desired effect on the poison. 1914). They recorded their methods to heal scorpion sting. of course. Our recent paper discussed. and we may assume that the life of the child was restored to him. Red arrow points to the scorpion. They knew that the “tail” is used for stinging and that it contains poison. and magic spells. the most widespread in the country and the most venomous.El-Hennawy: Scorpions in Ancient Egypt 5 Figure 7: Serqet as one of the four goddesses (Isis. New Kingdom. astrology. religious rituals. and knew that scorpion venom was fatal for children. It is evident that ancient Egyptians were aware of the toxicity of the scorpion venom and knew how the scorpion uses it. The second lot of gifts made to Isis represented his mother's gratitude” (Budge. The spells of the goddess produced. Dynasty 18. 5). such as the study of Stoof (2002).

Dynasty 19. New Kingdom. the beloved wife of the pharaoh Ramses II. 119 Figure 8: Serqet on the walls of the tomb of queen Nefertari. . No. in the Valley of the Queens. Luxor.6 Euscorpius — 2011.

Serqet (as a woman) on the ceiling of the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I. Dynasty 19. Photograph by Francis Dzikowski. 10. Saqqara. Luxor. Pyramids texts of Unas pyramid. Dynasty 5. in the Valley of the Kings.El-Hennawy: Scorpions in Ancient Egypt 7 Figures 9−10: 9. Theban Mapping Project. Old Kingdom. Red arrows point to the scorpion. . New Kingdom.

8 Euscorpius — 2011. Red arrows point to the scorpion. 119 Figure 11: Three figures of Serqet in the Book of the Dead. New Kingdom (British Museum). Ani Papyrus. No. .

New York).El-Hennawy: Scorpions in Ancient Egypt 9 Figures 12−13: 12. New York). Horus Cippus (Brooklyn Museum. Metternich Stele (Metropolitan Museum. 13. .

Figure 16: Bas-relief of scorpions on a jar and a slender seal (and its print) from Hierakonpolis. Dynasty 0 (after Stoof. 15. A foot rest sheet (Metropolitan Museum). No. 2002). 14. . 119 Figure 14−15: Tools to protect their users from a scorpion sting.10 Euscorpius — 2011. A ring.

Photographed by Francis Dzikowski. 14). Hottentota alticola (Pocock). 2010). 8. 12). 18. New Kingdom. 17. 2. Sometimes his scorpion had only six legs (Fig. in the Valley of the Kings. 14–16). Luxor. Figure 19: A scorpion with two tails on a wall of the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I. 3. Dynasty 19.El-Hennawy: Scorpions in Ancient Egypt 11 Figures 17−18: Scorpions with double metasoma. 1953). to look more fearful. The pedipalp was sometimes drawn with opened fingers (Fig. 2. Theban Mapping Project. adult female from Afghanistan. . the body segmentation and the number of legs (eight) (Figs. Juvenile female of Euscorpius flavicaudis with a double metasoma (after Lourenço & Hypolite. 16) because the first pair of legs was concealed under the pedipalps. Sometimes the scorpion had more segments and more legs (Fig. The stinger was mostly evident (Fig. indicating that the scorpion can use them for catching prey. 13–15). with two perfect metasomas (after Vachon. 2.

102: 1−2. This may be the first record. 2011. 19). 1953.uchicago. W. Anatomy and morphology. E. 1601). L. No. E. Polis (ed. M. The Historie of the World. Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Cairo. 1990. Cairo: 55+50 pp. folklore and history. Health and Healing in Ancient Egypt.html SISSOM. W. 1964. London: J. Luxor. Dar AlMaaref. The scorpion in ancient Egypt. 17–18). The Biology of Scorpions.). Xiii+272 pp. J. HYPOLITE. Kovač. . D. The developmental anomalies are well known in scorpions. & Z. Boletín de la Sociedad Entomológica Aragonesa. Only a limited number of cases of complete duplication of the metasoma and telson in scorpions have been reported in the modern literature. the Roman naturalist.12 The Two-tailed Scorpion A rare anomaly in scorpions. 963.. Online at http://penelope . Scorpions in mythology. placed these double-tailed scorpions in a class by themselves (Vachon. CA: Stanford University Press. 1990). CloudsleyThompson (1990) stated that Pliny’s most interesting remark about scorpions was that some have a pair of stings. T. M. Euscorpius. CLOUDSLEY-THOMPSON. more than 13 centuries before Pliny the Elder. The scorpion clearly had two metasomas (Fig. in the Valley of the Kings. 1965. is doubling of the “tail” (metasoma) (Figs. H. The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians. & F. Trench. SHELLEY. HJELLE. 2002.thebanmappingproject. The biology of scorpions. or Gaius Plinius Secundus (23–79 AD). 587 pp. Huntington. A. Polis (ed. 220 figs. EL-HENNAWY. and wrote the best papers on scorpion mythology and folklore (Cloudsley-Thompson. USA) and to Wilson Lourenço (MNHN. M. THE NATURALL HISTORIE OF C. K. W. In his 25th chapter "Of Scorpions". STOOF. 1914. 1990. Acknowledgments I am most grateful to Victor Fet (Marshall University. A. 1778) (Euscorpiidae). 2nd ed. 18). Stanford. Euscorpius — 2011. THEBAN MAPPING PROJECT 1997–2011. W. 462–485 in: G. 23(3): 199–201. pp. Skorpion und Skorpiongöttin im alten Ägypten. London: Kegan. Pp. Commonly called. M. Dent & Sons Limited. Endeavour. Translated into English by PHILEMON HOLLAND. Egyptian Magic. 1601. Trübner & Co. Stanford. H. KAMAL. 44: 147–150. 2(4): 199–719 (in Arabic). J. The first observation on scorpion biogeography by Aristotle. V. FET. Those cases were reviewed by Sissom & Shelley (1995) and Lourenço & Hypolite (2010) (Fig. R. Ancient Egyptian Medicine. 197 pp. 587 pp. A new case of duplication of the metasoma and telson in the scorpion Euscorpius flavicaudis (DeGeer. P. The anomaly was known in antiquity. Dynasty 19. The Biology of Scorpions. BRAUNWALDER & J. New Kingdom. 1953). 12: 80–87. A. which has attracted much attention. Pliny the Elder. CLOUDSLEY-THOMPSON 2009. The most interesting drawing of a scorpion in ancient Egypt is that found in the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I (1290–1279 BC). 119 A. 73–79 (in Arabic). Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Ancient Egyptian Science. Report on a rare developmental anomaly in the scorpion.). Journal of Arachnology. EL-DAWAKHLY. EL-HENNAWY. BUDGE. Online at http://www. Centruroides vittatus (Buthidae). E. 234 pp.. citing Aelian.edu/holland/index. G. H. In: G.. References BUDGE. the most common being the duplication of various posterior body segments (Hjelle. 1901. stated that “some have double stings” (Pliny. Cairo.com/ VACHON. CA: Stanford University Press. 24–26 April 2010. M. for Pliny. L. PLINY. Book 11 of his "Naturalis Historia". LOURENÇO. 1995. & R.. GHALIOUNGUI. Paul. Paris) who suggested and planned this volume in honor of John Cloudsley-Thompson who enriched the field of scorpiology. PLINIUS SECUNDUS. Pp. 1990). 2010.

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