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The sacred bird of wisdom

Throughout Egypt, images of the sacred ibis appear on the walls of tombs and temples. They come from the Late and Ptolemaic periods. Ancient Egyptians  considered these white birds with black beaks, the embodiment of the god of wisdom, knowledge and writing called Djehuty (from Greek Thoth). This god was also thought to herald the flood of the River Nile and was supposed to preserve the country from plagues and serpents. 

In art, Thoth  was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him.

In ancient times these birds were seen throughout Egypt but were very scattered. At the town of Hermopolis, ibises were reared specifically for sacrificial purposes. Millions of the birds were mummified in Tunat al Gebel and other necropolis like Saqqara and  Abydos, even though killing an ibis was a crime threatened with capital punishment. 

At present, you will find only glossy ibis in Egypt. Birds of this species can sometimes be seen in Aswan, but they do not reproduce in the country. In ancient temples the birds were shown as completely black without an iridescent gloss.

Another species depicted on the walls of the temples was the crested ibis - the hieroglyph for him meant Ankh (part of the soul), which is why he was often called the Ankh bird. 

Currently, the most common water birds on the River Nile are white herons and pied kingfisher, which can be seen all year round in Aswan and along the River Nile.

Ancient  Egypt & archeology