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Animal Taming


Royal Egyptians were known to own many animals, already tamed or to be tamed: from their hunting activities, they brought home ox, ibex, gazelle, and hyena; from those giving animals as tribute there were lion—often tamed to follow its master like a dog, much like the one owned by Ramesses II—and leopard, hyena, gazelle, ibex, hare, and porcupine, which were brought to Egypt from neighboring countries; from countries who were rich in incense came the baboon and giraffe; from Syrian came the bear and elephant; or from Ethiopia came the unknown animal called the ka’eri, which was often times tamed and taught to dance and to understand commands. Being an overtly illustrated animal, the baboon or the ape was a popular house pet throughout dynastic Egypt and was brought from Arabia. This sort of pet was not limited to royals: even common Egyptians contented themselves with a small monkey, which would sometimes be depicted sitting under its master’s chair, being mischievous. It was quite typical that a good pet for a woman was a small monkey, but men favored them as well.


Now let us turn to the relationship between man and his dog, a rapport that continues to be seen throughout all civilizations and eras. As has been examined already, dogs, in particular the cunning greyhound, were used to pounce upon and kill animals after which a royal hunter hunted. In a more relaxed setting, a setting more fitting of an Egyptian who was not a hunter, a dog would accompany his master in lying about the house or outside, much like today. Of dogs tamed as household pets, we see several: the t’esem, a non-Egyptian greyhound that was obtained from neighboring countries near the Red Sea; a type of earless dog that was used during the Old Kingdom for coursing; and, perhaps, though it is highly debatable, prairie dogs, once thought to have been used for hunting but, as the lack of depictions showing them with collars on, have been figured to be pets.





Being a rather hot country, it is no wonder that the ancient Egyptians enjoyed the shade of tress; the sanctuary beneath a tree is nothing unheard of: it was thought that when a prince was about to become a king, he would wait underneath a sacred tree—an acacia tree for example—where he would be greeted by Thoth and by Sheshat, who would inscribe on the leaves of the tree of eternity the name of the prince so that he and his name would last forever, as the acacia tree, one of life and eternity, would last. What is more, the ancient Egyptians loved nature almost as much as they did animals that they incorporated it into their and architecture: papyrus-inspired columns and boats and lotus flower patterns on coffins and house.


Since the environment of ancient Egypt did not provide the Egyptians with the nature that once covered the land, some filled the void by creating their own gardens, which might consist of dark green foliage trees, figs, pomegranates or trees covered with vines. Trees were perhaps the most important element in a garden as they were closely associated with several goddesses such as Hathor and Isis; it was thought that the garden and especially underneath a tree that love dwelled. Like today, the ancient Egyptians were not beyond being proud of their gardens; they spoke of the quality and beauty of their gardens with pride. What is more in cities, just like in modern times, there might be a garden or a park in which the ancients could enjoy themselves.


Like most of the sports, games, and other recreational activities seen in ancient Egypt, gardening was for the royal and non-royal alike, although each had a different amount of resources to create one; typically, the garden of a royal would be more luxurious and more massive, covering a whole city. It was Ramesses III who accomplished this: the city that he founded in the Delta was where he had created a garden composed of foreign and exotic plants and trees; papyrus plants; vineyards; and walkways lined with flowers, fruits, lotus, and papyrus. In addition, he is credited with planting trees and papyrus in Thebes as well as decorating the court of Amun with rare shrubs. Queen Chnemtamun was also another figure of ancient Egypt who enjoyed gardening. She had imported foreign incense trees from areas around the Red Sea.


The arrangement of a typical upper class garden during the New Kingdom looked somewhat like the following: to preserve silence, high walls were constructed around the confines of the house, which was surrounded by a vast garden complete with trees, pathways covered with grape vines that lead one to the entrance to the home, fish pond surrounded by shrubbery and more trees, tree nurseries, and palms.


Temples were also adorned with gardens, which were of a more sacred caliber: for example, there is a temple built by Chuen’eten in Middle Egypt that he most likely built for Horakhty, as was the name of the town that he founded, in which he created temple buildings, some having gardens and artificial lakes. The space separating each temple building is filled by trees, around which a pile of earth was created, near which were tanks whose water was used to nourish these trees. It is not certain if the tank at the center of a garden grove behind some storehouses was meant to be an artificial lake that would religiously represent the waters of chaos from the creation myths or if it served as a means of purifying priests. Either way, it was a good addition to any garden.

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