Ancient Egyptians’ Atypical Relationship with Invertebrates

In: Society & Animals

Abstract

Despite the ubiquitous presence and vital role of invertebrates in all known ecological systems, insects and arachnids are largely viewed as repugnant by people. Consequently, until nature intervenes in the form of infestations, swarms or plagues, we largely prefer to ignore them, lest our attention invite unwelcome interaction. In contrast, the people of ancient Egypt did not distance themselves from invertebrates but instead celebrated their myriad forms. Egyptian appreciation of insects and arachnids is reflected in a range of art, artefacts, and texts dating from the predynastic era until the Greco-Roman period, revealing many positive cultural roles, from practical to conceptual. By assigning them a useful function, they were rendered visible and relevant to Egyptian society. The Egyptians’ example suggests that as necessity forces us to acknowledge the value of invertebrates—from their function as pollinators to becoming future food sources—our respect for them may also grow.

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