Monday, October 4, 2021

Rulers and Royal Menageries


These petroglyphs found in the Eastern Desert of Egypt show the transport of cattle. 
Boat types include sickle, incurved sickle, square, incurved square, and flared.

The early Nilotic rulers kept personal menageries. Syrian bears were brought to Egypt during the 5th Dynasty. These bears were generally docile and kept on leashes. Athenaios of Naucratis reports that a white bear was housed by Ptolemy II in his private zoo at Alexandria.

At his royal estate in Nubia, Akhenaten kept lions in domed buildings, antelopes in pens, and cattle in an enclosure made of sticks and branches. It is believed that the rulers kept exotic animals as symbols of their power and wealth.

Ménagerie animals were kept in male-female pairs so that they would reproduce. According to Genesis 6:19, Noah brought only a male and female of the species onto the ark. However, Genesis 7:2 says that he saved seven pairs of only "clean" animals. This account comes from a different source that stressed ritual purity.

The animals that Noah saved were likely those of his personal ménagerie. Royal zoos were common among rulers during that period.

The oldest known zoo was at Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) on the Nile. The temple there was dedicated to the son of the High God, Horus and the priests who served there were called Horites. The Nekhen ménagerie existed in the middle of the second millennium BC. The rulers of the city of Nekhen kept menageries and provided royal burials for the animals that died. The animals exhumed in the city’s elite cemetery had received similar mortuary treatment as humans. There was some evidence that these animals had been well tended, including a few bone fractures that would have required medical care to heal properly. Nekhen has more animal burials than any early Nile Valley urban center.

The Proto-Saharan ruler Noah would have known of Nekhen. He likely lived in the region of Lake Chad. The region is called Bornu or Benue by the peoples who live there. Both words mean "land of Noah". Noah apparently had his own ménagerie. This would have included prized bulls, hippos, elephants, baboons, and wildcats. The account of Noah saving animals aligns well with the archaeological and anthropological evidence. 

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