Tomb drawing shows mongoose on lead
A recent field survey of the elite Middle Kingdom cemetery at Beni Hassan has revealed many unusual animal motifs, including a mongoose on a lead and a pelican - examples of creatures that are rarely attested in the artistic record.
The tombs were initially excavated over 100 years ago by Percy Newberry but are currently being re-surveyed by a team from Macquarie University in Sydney. The conservation and recording has “revealed many scenes not found in Newberry’s reports,” said Evans. In addition, the new work has identified creatures in the drawings that Newberry had been uncertain about. For example, Newberry noted only the possible existence of a leashed Egyptian mongoose, a burrowing animal with a speckled grey coat, writing down the identification as a suggestion. Some Egyptologists who reviewed his reports thought the identification was incorrect, Evans noted.
“No other images of leashed mongooses are known in Egyptian art,” she said. Evans’ team determined that the animal is ‘morphologically identical’ to the Egyptian mongoose, noting that the animal is also clearly depicted on a leash.
The tomb belonged to Baqet I, a nomarch or provincial governor, who ruled during the Eleventh Dynasty. The researchers said they don’t know why an ancient Egyptian artist drew a leashed mongoose on Baqet I’s tomb. “While mongooses have never been fully domesticated, some cultures have chosen to keep the animals as pets in order to control unwanted pests, such as snakes, rats and mice,”
Ancient drawing of a tomb at Beni Hassan in Egypt showing a hunter holding the leashes of a dog (bottom) and an Egyptian mongoose (top)