Archery case with painted scenes

From Thebes, Egypt
Middle Kingdom, (2040-1750 BC)

A hunting scene: a metaphor for the struggle with chaos

This archery case has scenes of hunting on its exterior and the fine decoration shows that it must have belonged to a wealthy individual; hunting for pleasure rather than for food was the privilege of the rich. Detailed scenes such as this one provide clues to the organisation of ancient Egyptian hunting trips. The nobleman was accompanied by his servants, a professional huntsman and his hunting dogs. The party would wait for their victim in dead-end valleys in the desert, or near waterholes. Once cornered, the prey was attacked with arrows, throwsticks and clubs, and dogs were used to harry the animals.

Scenes of desert hunting often show large cats, antelope and zebra, all now absent from Egypt. This is partly due to climatic changes, but can also be attributed to the over-hunting in ancient times.

Wild and dangerous animals of the desert and river were thought to represent the forces of chaos. In life, an individual might call on the gods for protection against these animals, using spells and amulets. However, a favourite scene in tomb decoration was the hunting of birds and fish in the marshes. Like threats from ferocious animals, scenes of hunting are also a metaphor for the struggle with chaos.

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More information


M. Rice, Egypts making (London, 1990)

M. Stead, Egyptian life (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)


Museum number

EA 20648


Gift of Sir A.W. Franks


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