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Ancient Egyptian Ritual Images Similar to Shamanism

Ancient Egyptian ritual images engraved in rock have been discovered, specifically hunting scenes that bear close resemblance to shamanic ones. The research has earned the team of archaeologists a prestigious award given by the Minister of Antiquities in Cairo.

Ancient rock engravings in Egypt, Photo credits: David Sabel.

The discovery was made during an excavation at Qubbet el-Hawa (hill of wind), a necropolis near Aswan, Egypt. Over years of research, the hill has revealed more than 80 burial sites of Egyptian noble people residing in Nubia; the region was also a trading base for this civilisation. A number of investigations have been performed in the necropolis, with the resulting unearthed objects now making up the majority of items at the Egyptian Museum in Bonn. As for the new findings, they are in the form of rock art dating back to the 4th millennium BC: paintings of small dots showed hunting scenes similar to shamanic figures.

According to the lead researcher, Prof. Ludwig Morenz from the University of Bonn, some of the engravings have been deciphered to be of Egyptian authorship: he explains that the iconography and stylistics hint at an Egyptian origin. However, upon analysing the presentation and motifs of other images, the team found that the latter predated the Egyptians.

Sadly, we can no longer see the images as clearly as we would have liked—they are too old to have remained conspicuous. The researchers could, however, make out that they were etched into the rock with a hard point, and closer inspection revealed three silhouettes in the drawings: a hunter with his bow, an African ostrich, and a man wearing a bird mask, performing some kind of dance with his arms raised.

According to Prof. Morenz, the story told in this drawing is that of a hunter-archer who was after the large bird, in the company of a hunter-dancer. The scene is similar to the world of shamanism, hunting, and masks, and is new to the field of Egyptology. Furthermore, figures shown dancing with arms raised with bird masks are reminiscent of findings from the 4th millennium BC. Other research has also shown that clay masks were spotted in the Upper Egyptian Hierakonpolis; these findings are supported the new ones.

Prof. Morenz concludes that there might be a link between ancient Egyptians and both the ancient world of the Near Eastern and the European Neolithic period.


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