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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Flies, Cats and Rat Traps: the Ordinary Animals of Ancient Egypt

By Anna E Garnett, on 15 November 2017

The Grant Museum’s current exhibition – The Museum of Ordinary Animals: The Boring Beasts that Changed the World ­­- explores the mundane creatures in our everyday lives. Here on the blog, we will be delving into some of the stories featured in the exhibition. This week we investigate some of the Ordinary Animals on loan from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.

Ask anyone about ancient Egypt and standard responses generally include pyramids, mummies, Tutankhamun, and sometimes (if you’re lucky) animals. Ancient Egyptians were keen observers of their natural environment and are well-known for representing all manner of flora and fauna in their artistic works. Gods and goddesses were also associated with particular animals and their behaviour: for example, the jackal god Anubis guarded the cemeteries of the dead, just as real jackals roamed the desert edge. What is perhaps less well-known is how ancient Egyptians considered the ‘ordinary animals’ who lived side-by-side with them in the Nile Valley. Egyptians utilised a wide variety of wild animals and some of these were domesticated, some kept as pets, and others were considered as vermin – just as they are today.


Mummified cat, currently on show in The Museum of Ordinary Animals exhibition (UC45976)


Specimen of the Week: Week 114

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 16 December 2013

Last week, in a flurry of productivity I wrote the Specimen of the Week topic schedule up to Valentine’s Day. In coming up with so many specimens all at once, I asked a Student Engager what specimen they would like to read about. It is entirely her doing therefore that I ended up researching an animal that I would never have thought to be quite so exciting as it turns out to be. I almost want to put a book about them on my Christmas wish list (yes it is still ok to make a list at age 32). This week’s Specimen of the Week is… (more…)