Monkeys in Egyptian Art

From the earliest times the monkey has played a major role in Egyptian religion and ritual, and has been represented in sculpture, sculpted reliefs and tomb paintings.  Baboons were kept as pets in Egypt ; during the New Kingdom (c. 1550-1069 BCE), monkeys were imported from Nubia, to the south.  Old Kingdom paintings (c. 2686-2181 BCE) depict baboons engaged in human activities such as dancing and making music, and they are shown climbing palms and participating in fig harvests.  A pre-dynastic baboon god was known as Baba.  From the Old Kingdom era, the baboon was an aspect of Thoth – ibis-headed moon god and god of wisdom, science, and the inventor of hieroglyphics, with a connection to the Afterlife.  The baboon was also considered an aspect of the sun god Re, and these primates were depicted in the arts with arms raised, worshipping the sun, or holding a solar symbol – a relief in the mortuary temple of Ramesses III (reigned: c. 1186-1155 BCE), at Medinet Habu, southern Egypt, shows a scene with baboons worshipping the sun with the pharaoh.  Hapy, son of major god Horus/Horus Edfu – celestial, falcon-headed protector of  pharaohs and god of many roles – was associated with mummification and depicted on canopic jars which held organs of deceased individuals.  A baboon god symbolised intelligence and sexual prowess.  Baboons have been found mummified and buried in wooden coffins.  As early as 4000-3200 BCE, at Hierakonpolis, Upper Egypt, a cemetery with animal burials included baboons (p. 78, Romer).  The sacred baboons of ancient Egypt were dog-faced baboons (Papio hamadryas), Old World monkeys probably brought from Nubia in pre-dynastic times.


See also:  A History of Ancient Egypt (vol. 1), John Romer, London: Penguin Books, 2013.

The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, R. H. Wilkinson, London: Thames & Hudson, 2017.

Egyptian Symbols, H. Owusu, London: Sterling, 2000.

Monkey Business and How to Stuff a Monkey

The exhibition, Monkey Business, is on at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh until 23 April 2017.


It includes many taxidermied monkeys, with the history of taxidermy and changing attitudes towards the practice considered in a talk given by Dr. Pat Morris titled, “How to Stuff a Monkey”, on 16 March 2017 from 18:30-20:00.

Bonobo body language – new study

The Bonobo, also called pygmy chimpanzee, is the oft-forgotten human relative, the step-brother of its more famous kin, the common chimpanzee. This is understandable because bonobos are isolated to one small region of the Congo and number fewer than 40,000 individuals spread across only a handful of populations. Common chimps, on the other hand, are spread widely across the rainforests of equatorial Africa and number upwards of 300,000. Both chimp species are endangered, primarily due to habitat loss and poaching.

via The Body Language of Bonobos and the Evolution of Human Language —