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Altorientalische Forschungen

Ed. by Novák, Mirko / Hazenbos, Joost / Mittermayer, Catherine / Suter, Claudia E.

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Volume 46, Issue 1


Thinking and Writing “Donkey” in Ancient Egypt

Examples from the Religious Literature

Dr. Marie Vandenbeusch
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, UK, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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Published Online: 2019-07-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/aofo-2019-0009


This article explores the role of donkeys in ancient Egypt through a lexicographical lens. It presents the terminology used for the animal in religious texts focusing on three case studies. Firstly, the most common word used for donkey aA, which appears in economic, literary and religious texts, will be examined. The second section will look into the entity hiw opening to a world of fantastic beings and hybrid creatures. And finally we will see that the number of signs associated to donkeys multiplied in the Ptolemaic period and are generally connected with the god Seth. With these three short investigations, different facets of the donkey are explored, revealing an animal that can be both an evil being and a threatening tool.

Keywords: Donkey; animal studies; lexicography; Seth; serpent; Apophis; hieroglyphic system; Egyptian religion; magic; Pyramid Texts; Coffin Texts; Graeco-Roman temples

All photographs and drawing by the author unless otherwise stated.


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About the article

Published Online: 2019-07-11

Published in Print: 2019-07-10

Citation Information: Altorientalische Forschungen, Volume 46, Issue 1, Pages 135–146, ISSN (Online) 2196-6761, ISSN (Print) 0232-8461, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/aofo-2019-0009.

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