All  
Sacrifice of a lamb on a Pitsa Panel, Corinth, 540–530 BC (Public Domain)

The Furry Ones Slain And Sacrificed To Bloodthirsty Deities

Print

It is beyond many people to even consider the killing of an animal, the sacrifice of the innocent in the name of a deity, but this was not the case in ancient times, and even in some parts of the modern world, where the killing of what are today regarded as ‘four legged friends’ was an essential part of life and death. When human cultures began shifting from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to agriculture around 12,000 years ago, the traditions of ancient hunting rituals were brought forward and domesticated livestock replaced wild beasts on the blood-stained stone altars of early human camps.

During the Neolithic Revolution the domesticated milking cow was the most sacrificed animal in Ancient Egypt (Public Domain)

During the Neolithic Revolution the domesticated milking cow was the most sacrificed animal in Ancient Egypt ( Public Domain )

The Sacred Cattle Of Nabta Playa

During the early Holocene Period (9,000 – 6,100 BC) Nabta Playa to the west of Abu Simbel in Egypt’s western desert, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of modern-day Cairo, flooded annually and a great lake was surrounded by grasslands with an abundance of animals, which attracted nomadic hunter-gatherer-fisher tribes. It is known these people had domesticated animals, farmed, created ceramic vessels, dug deep fresh-water wells and maintained standing stone astronomical observatories more than 9,000 years ago, but they had also developed a rich tradition of sacrificing and ritually burying animals with more pomp and ceremony than they buried themselves.

Since around 9000 BC the people of Nabta Playa created temporary camps in pastures to feed their domesticated goats and cows, but according to Andrew Slayman’s 1998-book Neolithic Skywatchers , around 7,500 years ago there were notable cultural changes among the peoples of the Nabta Playa, including the sacrifice of calves, goats and sheep. After the beasts were killed they were carefully buried in clay-lined subterranean chambers in the Valley of Sacrifices. The oldest and largest sacrificed animal was a cow that was deposited in a chamber on its side, oriented north to south, with its head facing to the west, then covered with a tamarisk (shrub) roof.  

Pottery bowl fragments in the British Museum from early Neolithic Egypt, Nabta (7050–6100 BC) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Pottery bowl fragments in the British Museum from early Neolithic Egypt, Nabta (7050–6100 BC) ( CC BY-SA 2.0)

Animal sacrifices continued in Africa over the following 4,000 years and in Ancient Egypt the streets and byways of bustling population centers were flowing with warm, deep-red animal blood.

READ MORE…

Like this Preview and want to read on? You can! JOIN US THERE  with easy, instant access  ) and see what you’re missing!! All Premium articles are available in full, with immediate access.

For the price of a cup of coffee, you get this and all the other great benefits at Ancient Origins Premium. And - each time you support AO Premium, you support independent thought and writing.

Ashley Cowie is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems, in accessible and exciting ways. His books, articles and television shows explore lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and artifacts, symbols and architecture, myths and legends telling thought-provoking stories which together offer insights into our shared social history .   www.ashleycowie.com.

Next article