Scorpions in ancient Egypt

Scorpions in ancient Egypt

By Hisham El-Hennawy

Euscorpius: Occasional Publications in Scorpiology,  No. 119 (2011)

King Scorpion, detail from his mace head, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford - photo by Udimu / Wikimedia Commons

King Scorpion, detail from his mace head, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford – photo by Udimu / Wikimedia Commons

Abstract: The ancient Egyptians knew the scorpion and its toxicity, and venerated it since pre-dynastic era. They used the scorpion as a king’s name, a name of a nome (county), and a symbol to their goddess, Serqet, that protects the body and the viscera of the dead, and that accompanies them in their journey to the afterlife. They had medical prescriptions and magical spells to heal the stings. Since the 5th dynasty, the title of a “Follower of Serket” was given to clever physicians. Scorpions are most famously depicted on Horus Cippus, a talisman featuring Horus the Child holding in his hands figures of serpents, scorpions, and dangerous animals. A drawing of a scorpion with two metasomas was found in the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I (1290–1279 BC), probably the first record of this abnormality, more than 13 centuries before Pliny the Elder.

Introduction: Scorpion in the ancient Egyptian myth and reality Scorpions have influenced the imagination of the peoples of the Orient and the Mediterranean since earliest times. In ancient Egypt, scorpions were frequently depicted in tombs and on monuments. They are mentioned in the Ebers papyrus (“How to Rid the House of Scorpions”) and in several passages of the Book of the Dead.

The writings about scorpions found on ancient Egyptian papyri were confined to myths, to advice on how to get rid of the scorpion and its venom, or how to heal its sting. Nothing was recorded about geography of scorpions, which was first noted by Aristotle (384–322BC).

The dwellers on the Nile in ancient Egypt knew the scorpion and venerated it since pre-dynastic era.They used the scorpion as a king’s name, Scorpion I and Scorpion II a name of a nome(county), and a symbol to their goddess Serqet (in addition to other goddesses).

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