To close our season of events in conjunction with the touring exhibition, ‘Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies Revealed’:
“If a crocodile has sex with her…”: Animals between magic, religion, and divination in Graeco-Roman Egypt.
Dr Luigi Prada, University of Oxford
2pm, Friday 13th January, Collections Study Centre, Manchester Museum
Animals played a huge role not only in the practical daily life of the ancient Egyptians, but also in their intellectual and spiritual life, especially in the Graeco-Roman Period.
Whilst we may be familiar with their overall role in Egyptian cults, there are aspects which remain often unknown outside the specialists’ circle–such as, for instance, the fact that sacred animals typically carried personal names (very much like our pets), that archaeological excavations revealed the existence of animal nurseries in Egyptian temples where, for instance, thousands of crocodile eggs were looked after to hatch, and many more such intriguing facts.
Even more remarkably, animals in Graeco-Roman Egypt were seen as divine agents not only in a cultic milieu, but also in private magical and divination practices. Thus, we know for instance of numerous papyri, many of which are still unpublished, that discuss omens connected with animals. Some are dream interpretation handbooks, and discuss the meaning of dreams in which animals are sighted, explaining what this foretells with regard to the dreamer’s future. Other, even more remarkable texts (such as one known under its ancient title as ‘The Book of the Gecko’) focus instead on animal omens experienced in the waking state, interpreting a myriad of animals’ movements and behaviour as signs of events to befall the human observer.
This talk will introduce the audience into this fascinating and little-known material.
Dr Luigi Prada is Lady Wallis Budge Junior Research Fellow in Egyptology at the University of Oxford, a Theodor Heuss Research Fellow (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg) and a Trustee of the Egypt Exploration Society.