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Occasional Publications in Scorpiology
Scorpions in Ancient Egypt
Hisham K. El-Hennawy
August 2011 – No. 119
edu/fet/euscorpius/’ at Marshall University. Norway OUMNH. Italy ZISP. Oxford.8). Soleglad.Euscorpius Occasional Publications in Scorpiology EDITOR: Victor Fet. Petersburg. i. 4th Edition. Chicago. Naturhistorisches Museum Wien. for the purposes of new names and new nomenclatural acts. American Museum of Natural History. Library of Congress. New York. including (but not limited to): systematics. St.znet. British Museum of Natural History. France NMW. Western Australian Museum. however. USA. Australia NTNU. lists of museum collections. Vienna. Euscorpius is an expedient and viable medium for the publication of serious papers in scorpiology. USA FMNH. Zoological Institute. 1999) does not accept online texts as published work (Article 9. ‘fet@marshall. evolution. All Euscorpius publications are distributed on a CD-ROM medium to the following museums/libraries: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • ZR. WV 25755-2510. descriptions of new taxa. faunistic surveys. Netherlands Publication date: 7 August 2011 . Marshall University. Museo Zoologico “La Specola” dell’Universita de Firenze. ‘soleglad@la. Washington.marshall. Euscorpius takes advantage of the rapidly evolving medium of quick online publication. USA MCZ. Norwegian University of Science and Technology.e. Only copies distributed on a CD-ROM from Euscorpius are considered published work in compliance with the ICZN. Paris. USA CAS. USA MNHN. Massachusetts. Museum of Comparative Zoology. Austria BMNH. Amsterdam. UK LC. United States National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution). Review papers. Huntington. Euscorpius is located on Website ‘http://www. London. Washington. Derivatio Nominis The name Euscorpius Thorell. Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle.com’ Euscorpius is the first research publication completely devoted to scorpions (Arachnida: Scorpiones). and book reviews are welcome. USA USNM. Zoological Record. The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN. and general biology of scorpions. Russia WAM. Oxford University Museum of Natural History. DC. 1876 refers to the most common genus of scorpions in the Mediterranean region and southern Europe (family Euscorpiidae). Florence. biogeography. Euscorpius is produced in two identical versions: online (ISSN 1536-9307) and CD-ROM (ISSN 1536-9293).edu’ ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Michael E. San Francisco. England.science. USA AMNH. Russian Academy of Sciences. ecology. York. Trondheim. Cambridge. it accepts CD-ROM publications (Article 8). Perth. UK MZUC. DC. Library Netherlands Entomological Society. UK NEV. California Academy of Sciences. Field Museum of Natural History. at the same time maintaining high research standards for the burgeoning field of scorpion science (scorpiology).
holding in his hands figures of serpents. In ancient Egypt.. when superstition in its most exaggerated form was general in Egypt. 1964). it became the custom to make house talismans in the form of small stone stelae. On the front of such a talisman was sculptured in relief a figure of Horus the Child (Harpokrates). 13). The dwellers on the Nile in ancient Egypt knew the scorpion and venerated it since pre-dynastic era (Fig. and a symbol to their goddess. 2011. 119 Scorpions in ancient Egypt Hisham K. which rested on bases having convex fronts. Scorpions are most famously depicted on Horus Cippus. 4). and a horned animal. scorpions were frequently depicted in tombs and on monuments. … The reverse of the stele and the whole of the base were covered with magical texts and spells. On the “Metternich Stele” that was unearthed in 1828 at Alexandria. clever physicians were given the title of a “Follower of Serqet”. and a symbol to their goddess Serqet (in addition to other goddesses).” The largest and most important of all these “cippi” is commonly known as the “Metternich Stele” (Budge.com Summary The ancient Egyptians knew the scorpion and its toxicity. 11). A drawing of a scorpion with two metasomas was found in the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I (1290–1279 BC). it was supposed to be directly under the protection of Horus and his companion gods. a name of a nome (county) (Fig. Kamal. Serqet. each of these being a symbol of an emissary or ally of Set. 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. She was mentioned in holy texts of ancient Egypt since the “Pyramids texts” in the Old Kingdom (Fig. 9). the legend of the wanderings . with rounded tops. scorpions. 3). 1990. Since the 5th dynasty. email: el_hennawy@hotmail. Since the 5th dynasty (2465–2323 BC). standing on two crocodiles. Cairo 11341. and when a talisman of this kind was placed in a house. The goddess Serqet also had its place in the sky of Scorpion in the ancient Egyptian myth and the ancient Egyptians. and was given to Prince Metternich by Muhammad Ali Pasha. probably the first record of this abnormality. the god of Evil (Fig. Scorpions are most famously represented on socalled Horus Cippi. 2009). 1901) (Fig. who had vanquished all the hosts of darkness and all the powers of physical and moral evil. a name of a nome (county). the title of a “Follower of Serket” was given to clever physicians. the goddess that protects the body and the viscera of the dead (Figs. a lion. The scorpion figures were also found in rings and other human tools in ancient Egypt (Figs. among circumpolar stars (Fig. and that accompanies them in their journey to the afterlife (Fig. The ancient Egyptians deified scorpion as Serqet. 12). “Towards the close of the 26th Dynasty. 1965). El-Manteqa El-Rabia St.Euscorpius — Occasional Publications in Scorpiology. They used the scorpion as a king’s name. “One who wields power over the goddess Serqet” (or “is powerful over Serqet's venom (Ghalioungui & El-Dawakhly. and venerated it since pre-dynastic era. scorpions. more than 13 centuries before Pliny the Elder. No. They had medical prescriptions and magical spells to heal the stings. to advice on how to get rid of the scorpion and its venom. Egypt. 1990). Scorpion I (Fig. 8). 10) to the Book of the Dead in the New Kingdom (Fig. which was first noted by Aristotle (384–322 BC) (Cloudsley-Thompson. … They are usually called “Cippi of Horus. They had medical prescriptions and magical spells to heal the stings of scorpions (Budge. 14. 1). Fet et al. and dangerous animals. They used the scorpion as a king's name. 1901. 2) and Scorpion II (Fig. Heliopolis. reality Scorpions have influenced the imagination of the peoples of the Orient and the Mediterranean since earliest times. and that accompanies them in their journey to the afterlife.. 15). 5–7). a talisman featuring Horus the Child holding in his hands figures of serpents. The writings about scorpions found on ancient Egyptian papyri were confined to myths. that protects the body and the viscera of the dead. or how to heal its sting. El-Hennawy 41. Nothing was recorded about geography of scorpions.
3100 BC). 1998). Red arrow points to the scorpion. Figure 3: Macehead of King Scorpion II (Dynasty 0). and its detail (Ashmolean Museum. . 119 Figures 1−2: 1. 2. Oxford). probably a record of a military expedition from about 3200 BC.2 Euscorpius — 2011. Red arrow points to the scorpion. Hierakonpolis (Ca. Inscriptions of King Scorpion I (Dynasty 00) (after Dreyer. No. The Gebel Tjauti tableau in the Theban Desert.
O poison of Maatet. I speak to you. the egg of the goose which appeareth from the sycamore.C. I am alone and in sorrow.” Meanwhile the fire in the house of Usert was extinguished. And I was sad for the child's sake. I charged them very carefully and adjured them to make no acquaintance with any one. Hearken to me. the goddess. Tefen and Befen. Two of them. fall on the ground. between 373 and 360 B. And a certain woman of quality spied me as I was journeying along the road. and I wished the innocent one to live again. and heaven was content with the utterance of Isis. And their leader brought me to PaSui. saying. Petet. O scorpions. and Maatet. O poison of Befent. every reptile that biteth (or stingeth). and a fire broke out in it. O poison of Mestetef. that were to travel with me. The legend is narrated by the goddess herself. Thetet. My words indeed rule to the uttermost limit of the night. the mistress of words of power. I am a weaver of spells. but the sky sent down rain. O poison of Mestet. rise not up in his body. and they shot out their poison on the tail of Tefen. followed behind me. I can destroy the devil of death by a spell which my father taught me. of Isis was cut in hieroglyphs during the reign of Nectanebus I. fall on the ground. come forth. And the heart of Usert was sore within her.” Then Isis laid her hands on the child and recited this spell: “O poison of Tefent. and she brought to the house of the peasant woman gifts for the goddess. Then the scorpion Tefen crawled in under the door of the woman Usert [who had shut it in my face]. though it was not the time of rain. I command you by the beloved of Ra. for she knew not whether her son would live or die. and he who is stricken shall likewise be saved. and to keep their gaze towards the ground so that they might show me the way. So I cried out to her. O poison of Petet and Thetet. Then the lady Usert was filled with sorrow because she had shut her door in the face of Isis. go no further. prepared the way for me. I know how to utter words so that they take effect. When I arrived at Teb. at the head of the district of the Papyrus Swamps. and she went through the town shrieking for help. enter not his body.El-Hennawy: Scorpions in Ancient Egypt 3 Figure 4: Scorpion nome (county) on the Tehnu palette. who says (extract): “I left the house of Set in the evening. pre-dynastic period (Egyptian Museum of Cairo). and sting with their stings on my behalf. to pay no heed to a servant (?). and fall on the ground. I am Isis. I came to a quarter of the town where women dwelt. Come to me! Come to me! There is life in my mouth. for she was afraid because of the Seven Scorpions that were with me. but none came out at the sound of her voice. Mestet and Mestetef. and our names will stink throughout the nomes… The child shall live! The poison shall die! For Ra liveth and the poison dieth. come forth. Then they took counsel concerning her. Red arrow points to the scorpion. and I went into the house of this humble woman. Ascend not into heaven. . the town of the Sacred Sandals. went one on each side of me. I am a woman well known in her town. go no further. and there accompanied me Seven Scorpions. a peasant woman called Taha opened her door. two of them. whom she had apparently not recognised. and she was very sad. there was no water to put it out. to speak to none of the Red Fiends. and stung her son. As for me. and she shut her door in my face. I am his daughter. fall on the ground. and three. his beloved one. Horus shall be saved through his mother Isis.
1350 BC (Egyptian Museum of Cairo.4 Euscorpius — 2011. ca. Red arrow points to the scorpion. 119 Figures 5−6: 5.). 6. 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. Serqet on the internal alabaster cabinet of canopic jars that contained the viscera of the pharaoh Tutankhamen. New Kingdom. No.). ca. . 1350 BC (Egyptian Museum of Cairo.
and sometimes reduced (Fig. of course. we did not find inscriptions or writings about the kinds and habits of scorpions. the desired effect on the poison. The second lot of gifts made to Isis represented his mother's gratitude” (Budge. the toxicity and some morphological characters of scorpions in ancient Egypt (El-Hennawy. Theban Mapping Project. They mostly dealt with one scorpion species.El-Hennawy: Scorpions in Ancient Egypt 5 Figure 7: Serqet as one of the four goddesses (Isis. From this extract. in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. such as the study of Stoof (2002). we see that the ancient Egyptians were aware of the toxicity of scorpions. and that they were well studied from the archaeological point of view. 2011). and we may assume that the life of the child was restored to him. Dynasty 18. It is evident that ancient Egyptians were aware of the toxicity of the scorpion venom and knew how the scorpion uses it. in brief. Inscriptions and drawings of scorpions in the ancient Egypt were sometimes detailed (Fig. religious rituals. This probably refers to Leiurus quinquestriatus (Buthidae). Serqet. They recorded their methods to heal scorpion sting. The ancient artist noticed . They knew that the “tail” is used for stinging and that it contains poison. and magic spells. Our recent paper discussed. Luxor. Scorpion biology as seen by the ancient Egyptians Scorpions were mentioned in many ancient Egyptian papyri and inscriptions dealing with myths. Photograph by Francis Dzikowski. The spells of the goddess produced. astrology. Red arrow points to the scorpion. New Kingdom. and knew that scorpion venom was fatal for children. medicine. Nephthys. 1914). 3). 5). and Neit) protecting the sarcophagus of the pharaoh Horemheb. the most widespread in the country and the most venomous. especially for children. Their method to get the poison out of the human body was mainly by magical spells. However.
119 Figure 8: Serqet on the walls of the tomb of queen Nefertari. the beloved wife of the pharaoh Ramses II. Dynasty 19. No. New Kingdom.6 Euscorpius — 2011. in the Valley of the Queens. . Luxor.
10. Dynasty 5. Serqet (as a woman) on the ceiling of the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I.El-Hennawy: Scorpions in Ancient Egypt 7 Figures 9−10: 9. Photograph by Francis Dzikowski. Dynasty 19. Theban Mapping Project. Saqqara. Red arrows point to the scorpion. Luxor. Old Kingdom. . Pyramids texts of Unas pyramid. New Kingdom. in the Valley of the Kings.
8 Euscorpius — 2011. . No. Red arrows point to the scorpion. New Kingdom (British Museum). 119 Figure 11: Three figures of Serqet in the Book of the Dead. Ani Papyrus.
New York). .El-Hennawy: Scorpions in Ancient Egypt 9 Figures 12−13: 12. Horus Cippus (Brooklyn Museum. New York). Metternich Stele (Metropolitan Museum. 13.
10 Euscorpius — 2011. Figure 16: Bas-relief of scorpions on a jar and a slender seal (and its print) from Hierakonpolis. No. 15. A ring. Dynasty 0 (after Stoof. 119 Figure 14−15: Tools to protect their users from a scorpion sting. 2002). 14. . A foot rest sheet (Metropolitan Museum).
2. 8. New Kingdom. The stinger was mostly evident (Fig.El-Hennawy: Scorpions in Ancient Egypt 11 Figures 17−18: Scorpions with double metasoma. Luxor. Theban Mapping Project. 14). 14–16). 3. 18. Juvenile female of Euscorpius flavicaudis with a double metasoma (after Lourenço & Hypolite. 2. adult female from Afghanistan. . Sometimes the scorpion had more segments and more legs (Fig. Figure 19: A scorpion with two tails on a wall of the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I. with two perfect metasomas (after Vachon. 17. Hottentota alticola (Pocock). the body segmentation and the number of legs (eight) (Figs. Photographed by Francis Dzikowski. Sometimes his scorpion had only six legs (Fig. 13–15). 2010). 2. 1953). 16) because the first pair of legs was concealed under the pedipalps. to look more fearful. indicating that the scorpion can use them for catching prey. in the Valley of the Kings. Dynasty 19. 12). The pedipalp was sometimes drawn with opened fingers (Fig.
Online at http://penelope . SHELLEY. Skorpion und Skorpiongöttin im alten Ägypten. EL-DAWAKHLY. 1990). 197 pp. 2nd ed. No. 234 pp. Endeavour. The Biology of Scorpions. 2002. 119 A. THE NATURALL HISTORIE OF C. New Kingdom.. 1778) (Euscorpiidae). V. 1953. Euscorpius. CLOUDSLEY-THOMPSON. D. LOURENÇO. 23(3): 199–201. Egyptian Magic.uchicago. Xiii+272 pp. Report on a rare developmental anomaly in the scorpion. The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians. USA) and to Wilson Lourenço (MNHN. EL-HENNAWY. 1964. or Gaius Plinius Secundus (23–79 AD). is doubling of the “tail” (metasoma) (Figs. London: Kegan. Ancient Egyptian Medicine. 24–26 April 2010. Luxor. Hamburg: Verlag Dr. placed these double-tailed scorpions in a class by themselves (Vachon. Trench. E. PLINY. W. Huntington. 1990). 963. Centruroides vittatus (Buthidae). CA: Stanford University Press. 1914. Paul. 1965. P. BUDGE. M. This may be the first record. The most interesting drawing of a scorpion in ancient Egypt is that found in the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I (1290–1279 BC). 44: 147–150. 587 pp. Euscorpius — 2011. Those cases were reviewed by Sissom & Shelley (1995) and Lourenço & Hypolite (2010) (Fig. Only a limited number of cases of complete duplication of the metasoma and telson in scorpions have been reported in the modern literature.. In his 25th chapter "Of Scorpions". HYPOLITE. The scorpion in ancient Egypt. Stanford.com/ VACHON. Dar AlMaaref. Pliny the Elder. Commonly called. THEBAN MAPPING PROJECT 1997–2011. E. The Biology of Scorpions. M. The anomaly was known in antiquity. The scorpion clearly had two metasomas (Fig. J. Paris) who suggested and planned this volume in honor of John Cloudsley-Thompson who enriched the field of scorpiology. EL-HENNAWY. GHALIOUNGUI. Health and Healing in Ancient Egypt.). BRAUNWALDER & J. 2010. Journal of Arachnology. G.. CLOUDSLEY-THOMPSON 2009. London: J. Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Ancient Egyptian Science. T. the most common being the duplication of various posterior body segments (Hjelle. and wrote the best papers on scorpion mythology and folklore (Cloudsley-Thompson. CloudsleyThompson (1990) stated that Pliny’s most interesting remark about scorpions was that some have a pair of stings. A. W. pp. The biology of scorpions. citing Aelian. in the Valley of the Kings. L. A. References BUDGE.12 The Two-tailed Scorpion A rare anomaly in scorpions. The developmental anomalies are well known in scorpions. H. stated that “some have double stings” (Pliny. STOOF. 2(4): 199–719 (in Arabic). & F. J. K. W. Anatomy and morphology. M. Dynasty 19. Dent & Sons Limited. In: G. L. Polis (ed. CA: Stanford University Press. 73–79 (in Arabic). 1601). Trübner & Co. 12: 80–87. Scorpions in mythology. Pp. W. E. more than 13 centuries before Pliny the Elder.thebanmappingproject. Pp.html SISSOM. Online at http://www. folklore and history. 587 pp. Kovač. H. 1990. 17–18). FET. R. The first observation on scorpion biogeography by Aristotle. Boletín de la Sociedad Entomológica Aragonesa. 18). 1990. for Pliny. Polis (ed. Cairo: 55+50 pp. 102: 1−2. Stanford. Translated into English by PHILEMON HOLLAND. H. M. 220 figs. 19).edu/holland/index. HJELLE. M. . Acknowledgments I am most grateful to Victor Fet (Marshall University. 1901. the Roman naturalist. A new case of duplication of the metasoma and telson in the scorpion Euscorpius flavicaudis (DeGeer. A. & Z. Book 11 of his "Naturalis Historia". 2011. 1995. which has attracted much attention.).. Cairo. 462–485 in: G. Cairo. & R. PLINIUS SECUNDUS. KAMAL. 1953). The Historie of the World. 1601.