Hunting was popular among all classes. The pharaoh Sahure is depicted hunting gazelle, antelope, deer and other animals. Most of the noblemen may be seen pursuing wild Egyptian game and capturing different species. And the working classes chased gazelle, oryx, wild oxen, hares and ostrich with equal enthusiasm. Long bow and arrow, lasso, throwing sticks and bola were the most common hunting weapons. The bow was no more than 3 feet in length and the arrows, carried in leather quivers, came in several varieties; the one preferred for hunting (which survived into the Egyptian New Kingdom) had an agate arrowhead cemented to a sturdy, usually ebony, stick which was fitted into a hollow reed shaft. The latter was decorated with two feathers and notched for the bowstring.
Considerable ability must have been required in the handling of the throwing stick, numerous specimens of which may be found in most of the museums of the world. They, too, varied in shape, some being semi-circular and others ending in a knob. The bola consisted of a rope or strap about 16 feet long with a single rounded stone attached to the end. When thrown, the cord would twist round the legs or neck of the Egyptian animal and hinder its movement; a good hunter could bring down an animal by his strength. The lasso differed from the bola in having no stone attached: the noose would merely be thrown round the neck of the running victim gazelle, wild goat, water-buck, and ostrich.
Hunting scenes were extremely spirited, showing the hunter enthusiastically pursuing game in an obvious display of pleasure. Some scenes indicate how bait was used. In tomb of Ptahhotep pharaoh the muzzle of a young tethered heifer is being seized in the jaws of a lion, which a hunter points out to his two hounds before setting them loose. Hounds were specially trained for hunting and following wounded beasts. Every effort seems to have been made to save them from being hurt and to capture game alive. Ptahhotep is depicted watching men dragging cages containing lion, a frame with gazelles bound together in groups, and smaller cages containing hedgehogs. Sometimes a hunter, perhaps after killing its mother, would take a young gazelle back to the village in ancient Egypt.
The ancient Egyptians were avid fishermen. After the waters of the annual flood receded, ponds were left in the open country. These, as well as the canals and the river, yielded an inexhaustible supply of mullet, catfish, telapia, perch, barbel and other varieties of fish. The upper classes penetrated deeply into the thickets in their firmly constructed papyrus skiffs, their feet squarely placed on the central plank. They pursued fish with spears sometimes two-pronged but never angled. The crew, on the other hand, sometimes speared fish like their masters but more often angled from small boats, using as many as six hooks on a single line. Drag-nets were drawn from the shore in small canals, trawl-nets were used in larger canals and rivers, and trap-nets were also used. These were wicker-like baskets with narrow necks, sometimes curving inwards; when dropped in shallow water, the fish would be attracted to the bait and swim inside but could not emerge. Hippo-hunting with spears was popular among all classes.
The familiarity of the ancient Egyptians with bird life is particularly apparent from the Ti's Tomb, where various species of the marshes are depicted in families near their nests, each drawn with characteristic features and easily identifiable (although not drawn to scale). They include quail, partridge, heron, pelican, turtledove, magpie, swallow, wild duck and goose, among others, and wading in the reedy swamps near the river are flamingoes, pelicans and cormorants. In fact indigenous and migratory waterfowl were so plentiful that the ancient Egyptians likened a crowd to a bird pond during the inundation. Birds were most often caught in clap-nets. Hunting them with a throw-stick was also an extremely popular sport which needed skill; the hunter, often accompanied by his wife, children and servants, had to stand firmly in his boat with legs wide apart and, whilst maintaining his balance, fling the missile at the fowl as they took to the air. Some of the men with him hold decoy-birds, indicating that the Ipoat made its way quietly through the thickets to creep up on the fowl. Mongooses were trained to catch small aquatic birds, considered a great delicacy.
It is not surprising, in view of the warm weather and the proximity of the river, that the ancient Egyptians were swimmers from early times. A hieroglyph of the name of a man, depicted on an Old Kingdom offering-table, shows a man swimming, and it is evident from this and other representations that the crawl stroke was common to them. Learning to swim may, indeed, have been necessary training for children among the upper classes, for a biographical inscription of a Egyptian Middle Kingdom nobleman referred to the encouragement his pharaoh gave him and declared that as a youth ‘he caused me to take swimming lessons along with the royal children’.
In many ancient Egyptian tombs the owner is depicted watching boatmen’s games which may have been either an exhibition contest or a race. Light reed boats, often filled with produce, were punted in the same direction. Meanwhile two or three men stood in each boat equipped with long poles with which they tried to push their opponents into the water. They would then either board the ‘enemy’ boat or tip it over.
In the ancient Egyptian tombs of the Old Kingdom only children (identified by the side-lock of youth) are depicted playing games, whilst in the Middle Kingdom young men and women are also shown in sports activities. Moreover, in the Old Kingdom most of the games are played by boys and, with few exceptions, boys and girls did not play together. A game requiring skill was played by boys with sharp pointed sticks which they raised and threw at a target on the ground between them. A ‘tug-of-war’ trial of strength was accompanied by such inscriptions as ‘Your arm is much stronger than his’, ‘My team is stronger than yours’ and ‘Hold fast comrades.’ Boys played a high-jump game, leaping over an obstacle formed by two of their comrades sitting opposite each other with soles of the feet and tips of the fingers touching. In another game a boy kneels on the ground with one leg outstretched; his comrades endeavour to touch him lightly with their feet while avoiding his hands. Whoever he catches takes his place on the ground.
A girls’ game is depicted in Pharaoh Mereruka’s tomb: two players in the centre hold either two or four partners with outstretched arms; the latter lean outwards so that only their heels touch the ground. The text reads: ‘Turn around four times.’ Though there are no murals of children playing ball in the Old Kingdom, balls have been found, even in prehistoric graves. Some were covered in leather, cut into sections, sewn together and filled with fine straw or reeds. Others were made of wood or clay, in one or more colours.
Related Web Search :
- Ancient Egyptian Sports
- Ancient Egyptian Sports And Games
- Ancient Egyptian Sports for Kids
- Daily life in Ancient Egypt
- Ancient Egyptian Hunting