Birds and Us

Jesse Russell at The Hedgehog Review:

Relationships between ancient humans and birds had a deeply religious element. Birkhead locates the “ground zero” of an early human civilization built around animal worship in ancient Egypt. Within the catacombs at Tuna el-Gebel in Egypt, there are four million mummified birds contained in jars and coffins. In addition to mummifying ibises, ancient Egyptians preserved a variety of creatures in cemeteries throughout the Nile Valley. Birds, however, are among the most prominent animals. Clearly, the lovingly embalmed birds were considered sacred; and ancient Egypt was a civilization in which humans and birds lived in harmony.

But such religious understandings of birds could cut both ways—not just care and preservation, but also blood sacrifice. Ancient Egyptians believed that the gods demanded appeasement in order to regulate, among other things, the fertility of the Nile river. Figures such as Ramses II (1187-1157BC) would offer sacrifices of up to 20,000 birds per year. Animal gods populated the Late Period of Egyptian history (672-332BC). The ancient Egyptians ate birds and used them for sport.

more here.