The Hedgehog in Ancient Egypt

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Hedgehog made of faience

Egyptian Name:

Henta or Hentj ("Spiny")



Hieroglyphics:

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Hedgehog amulets

The species of hedgehog that lived in ancient Egypt were the Desert Hedgehog and the Long-eared Hedgehog. Both were admired by the Egyptians for their survival in the semi-desert areas outside the fertile floodplain. Hedgehogs are frequently depicted as offerings in tomb reliefs of the Old Kingdom, and are occasionally shown in desert reliefs going in and out of burrows as they catch crickets. More rarely, hedgehogs are pictured in hunting scenes amidst larger animals in full flight.


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The hedgehog was reputed to have the ability to resist all sorts of poisons, and amulets of hedgehogs, made from faience, bronze, or hardstone, were believed to protect from attack by scorpions and cobras. The hedgehog was also a symbol for rebirth after death because of its hibernation. The nocturnal habit of the hedgehog appears to have been related to the nocturnal voyage of the sun, so amulets of hedgehogs were buried with the dead to help with their solar rebirth.


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Rattles, cosmetic cases, vessels, and children's toys were made in their shape, and hedgehog statuettes were affixed to the bows of barques. These figureheads, in contrast to others, did not face forward, but rather looked backwards, with the protective spines set to deflect any danger. Hedgehogs were avidly hunted and eaten, and the most common way to cook one was to encase the hedgehog in clay and bake it. When the clay was then cracked open and removed, it took the spikes with it.



Other Animals of Ancient Egypt