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Editor: Michael Berger
Date: 2003
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt
Publisher: Greenhaven Press
Document Type: Topic overview; Brief article
Pages: 2
Content Level: (Level 4)
Lexile Measure: 1210L

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Page 141


The marshes along the Nile River provided food and shelter for numerous hippopotamuses, which because of their large numbers understandably became a part of ancient Egyptian religious beliefs. In many cases, these associations were with gods representing powerful but negative forces, because hippopotamuses were known to kill people with little provocation. For example, the hippopotamus was said to be one manifestation of the destroyer god Seth.

However, because of these animals' fierceness, the Egyptians also viewed them as an attacker of evil spirits and therefore, ironically, as protectors of humans. So, some of the religious associations connected to hippopotamuses were positive. For example, one of the deities said to manifest as a hippopotamus was Taweret, who watched over pregnant women during labor.

Because of such positive associations, hippopotamus tusks were often inscribed with protective symbols and carried as amulets (i.e., magic charms intended to protect the wearer). Similarly, hippopotamus figurines were either carried or featured in religious rituals, and tables were occasionally carved with hippopotamus legs or other features of the animal. In addition, live hippopotamuses were sometimes kept in temple pools. In fact, there were so many hippopotamuses in such pools during the Seventeenth Theban Dynasty that a Fifteenth Hyksos Dynasty king, Apophis, supposedly claimed that he could hear the animals living in Thebes from his capital of Avaris four Page 142  |  Top of Articlehundred miles away.

See also: Seth ; Taweret .

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX2277500245