Session Two – in which I sat outside in the beautiful Sunday outdoors of a Valentine weekend, drank my coffee, and devoured some history while the kiddo painted. Like so,
Yes, she paints with TWO hands, and doesn’t even have to look at the canvas, she is that awesome. Also, I have x-ray vision and can read through the book boards. Not really, I just really like the front cover of the Histories edition I’m reading from.
Today, while I was reading, I got caught up in a bit about the sacred animals of Egypt. Herodotus takes time to discuss this topic in a bullet point type fashion and very little detail. I suppose he had so much information to relay that this was not high on his list of things to be extraordinarily well researched. He simply mentions which ones are sacred and plods happily along with his narrative.
Except he mentions otters.
Otters were sacred to the Ancient Egyptians.
Otters are in my top ten list of favorite animals of all time.
However, most of my adoration comes from watching them for prolonged period of times at the zoo, or in sharing adorable pictures of them with my friends on facebook… like these ones on the right caught kissing. (How adorable is that?!) I actually know very little about otters, much less that they are native to Egypt. I am a little bit obsessed with Ancient Egypt and consider myself a very amateur budding Egyptologist of sorts [very, very amateur who buds quite slowly]. Somehow, until now, the otters have escaped me.
The World Book Encyclopedia describes an ottter as a “fur-bearing animal that spends much of its time in the water.” They are flesh-eaters and hopelessly cute. Of course, I’m drawn to them – but the encyclopedia offers no explanation or even reference to the fact that the Ancient Egyptians would care.
So, of course I google it and find this. If you’re not in a link hopping, article reading mood, I shall spare you and share only this highlighted introduction paragraph:
Four otter species occur in Africa. The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) occurs only in the rivers rising in the Atlas mountains. Three species are endemic to Africa: The Cape clawless otter (Aonyx capensis), the Congo clawless otter (Aonyx congica), and the spotted-necked otter (Lutra maculicollis). Throughout the high rainfall regions (i.e. within the 500 mm isohyet) of sub-Saharan Africa at least one of these species, often more, can be expected to be present. Otters are absent from only six countries on the African continent: Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Somalia, and Western Sahara. With the exception of Egypt, these counties probably do not have sufficient permanent water for otters.
Absent from Egypt. Still sacred to Ancient Egyptians.
Of course, this led me to more questions. More googling. (And even more plans to visit a bookstore and the library in search of answers as soon as humanly possible .) Which led to this little gem… Otter or Mongoose?.
Despite my extensive personal library I am constantly shocked by what is not in it – and I have nothing on otters… or mongooses for that matter.
I also have nothing on Queen Tomyris of the Massagetai and she, too, though not as thoroughly as the otters, piqued my interest today. How have I not heard of this woman? This semi-psychotic warrior queen who is responsible for the death of Cyrus the Great. Obviously, I need a biography on her stat. Well, not too stat, as I’m currently in the middle of The Life of Charlotte Bronte and I’ve yet to finish a whole host of other fabulous biographies that are piled around the house. Rest assured, however, I have taken note in my handy dandy notebook of all things Ancient History and Queen Tomyris will not be forgotten. The wonderful thing about scholarship is that there is always more to study. The terrible thing about scholarship is that I have to be patient with myself knowing that I can only read as much as I can read in a day and that there will always be more to read.