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Old January 6th, 2011, 08:08 AM   #1

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Did the Ancient Egyptians eat pork?


An easy answer to the question is "Some did; others did not."

Ancient texts do record certain taboos on the subject. The Coffin Text follows. It can be found in Ancient History Sourcebook: Coffin Text reproduced here.

Quote:
O Batit of the evening, you swamp-dwellers, you of Mendes, ye of Buto, you of the shade of Re which knows not praise, you who brew stoppered beer---do you know why Rekhyt [Lower Egypt] was given to Horus? It was Re who gave it to him in recompense for the injury in his eye. It was Re--he said to Horus: "Pray, let me see your eye since this has happened to it" [injured in the fight with Seth]. Then Re saw it. Re said: "Pray, look at that injury in your eye, while your hand is a covering over the good eye which is there." Then Horus looked at that injury. It assumed the form of a black pig. Thereupon Horus shrieked because of the state of his eye, which was stormy [inflamed]. Horus said: "Behold, my eye is as at that first blow which Seth made against my eye!" Thereupon Horus swallowed his heart before him [lost consciousness]. Then Re said: "Put him upon his bed until he has recovered." It was Seth---he has assumed form against him as a black pig; thereupon he shot a blow into his eye. Then Re said: "The pig is an abomination to Horus." "Would that he might recover," said the gods. That is how the pig became an abomination to the gods, as well as men, for Horus' sake....
Of course, the question arises whether the Set-beast was really a pig, but I think it most likely was. (FWIW). Here is a source with a little more information: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/pigs.htm

It is well known that the Jews have a strong pork taboo based on biblical sources including Leviticus. Muslims have a taboo based on multiple passages in the Qur'an. The Abyssinian Coptic church has a taboo of long standing (I confess I don't know how long) and traditionally base that on the bible, but the Egyptian Coptic church seems to have no such taboo since, at least until very recent times, the Egyptian Copts raised pigs.

It also seems that the Ancient Canaanites/Phonecians had taboos on eating pork, but I know of no good sources on that taboo.

What I often wonder is this: Is there any historical or cultural reason that such a taboo should arise among so many different peoples in this small but important part of the ancient world?
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Old January 6th, 2011, 08:12 AM   #2

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In a related thread called "Why Muslims and Jews don't eat pork", several posters including Gaius Valerius pointed out that there might be good biological reasons not to keep pigs in an environment with scarce recources. They eat everything and specifically go for the seeds from trees, destroying forest and bush.
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Old January 6th, 2011, 09:16 AM   #3

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I must have missed that thread on one of my extended trips out of town.

The theory about grazing is one that I have entertained. Is there any support for it?
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Old January 6th, 2011, 12:25 PM   #4

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Pig, and meat in general was not a staple food item in ancient Egypt. Bread and onions were actually the main food source for the commoner with a little dried fish and supplemental vegetables if they weren't poor. The keeping of domesticated animals for the sole purpose of meat production probably wasn't too logical at the time, not to mention expensive.
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Old January 6th, 2011, 02:30 PM   #5

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There is a mention of pigs in Egypt in Chapter 70 of Book 2 of The Histories by Herodotus:

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There are many different ways of crocodile hunting; I will write of the way that I think most worth mentioning. The hunter baits a hook with a hog's back, and lets it float into the midst of the river; he himself stays on the bank with a young live pig, which he beats. Hearing the squeals of the pig, the crocodile goes after the sound, and meets the bait, which it swallows; then the hunters pull the line. When the crocodile is drawn ashore, first of all the hunter smears its eyes over with mud; when this is done, the quarry is very easily mastered -- no light matter, without that.
So they had no qualms about throwing them to crocodiles, it would seem
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Old January 6th, 2011, 02:52 PM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patito de Hule View Post


Of course, the question arises whether the Set-beast was really a pig, but I think it most likely was. (FWIW). Here is a source with a little more information: Egypt: Pigs in Ancient Egypt
Set may have appeared as a pig, but the actual Typhonic beast of Set is generally thought to be an aardvark.
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Old January 6th, 2011, 03:55 PM   #7

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And did the Ancient Egyptians differentiate betw a pig and an aardvark?
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Old January 6th, 2011, 03:58 PM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patito de Hule View Post
And did the Ancient Egyptians differentiate betw a pig and an aardvark?
That is actually a valid question that had crossed my mind as well. They obviously do not look anything like the other, but from my end, I just don't know. I will dig and see if I can find anything.
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Old January 6th, 2011, 05:33 PM   #9

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Click the image to open in full size.
I was serious about the question, but if aardvarks were sufficiently common in Egypt (Upper? or Lower?) for Set to be represented by one, they must have distinguished between them and pigs, which did exist there.

OTOH, the human part of him seems red rather like a Nubian or an Ethiopian. And the ears do look somewhat like stylized aardvark ears (if such images as this were the rule). The nose looks rather like a phallus, but that could be aardvarkish. Some of the pictures of him, however have a mouth that is distinctly not aardvarkish.

Yet again, perhaps the aardvark was not so common in Egypt, but something rather strange in Upper Egypt. To the best of my knowledge they were common further north, like around Ethiopia and the Horn (with which the Egyptians were familiar). Perhaps an uncommon, but familiar animal could go by the same glyph as a pig--could be commonly associated with pigs.

And how should the Coffin Text that I put in the OP be interpreted given these possibilities.
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Old January 6th, 2011, 06:26 PM   #10

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The story of the curse on the pig seems as good a reason as any for the pig being anathema to the Egyptians. However, in contrast to my earlier statement that the Egyptians most likely didn't raise pigs, I have to stand corrected. The tombs of Nebamun, Methen, and Renni, tomb EK 7 in El Kab, all show swineherd and other depictions of domesticated animals. In digging I found that swineherders were not allowed in any temples and were consider a lower "caste" in ancient Egypt. If you even brushed a pig you were required to wash yourself thoroughly. The exception...the full moon sacrifice and feast to Osiris/ Dionysus. The only time they were allowed to be sacrificed or eaten.
http://books.google.com/books?id=YTC...&q=pig&f=false

http://www.osirisnet.net/tombes/el_k...e_renni_01.htm

Click the image to open in full size.
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