Pharaoh and Ichneumon Bronze -  Egypt, c. 664-332 BC,  XXVI Dynasty

Here the pharaoh stands before an ichneumon (Egyptian mongoose), an animal in whose form the god Ra is often represented. The position of the king’s hands indicates that he once held an offering before him.

The icneumon gained status in the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BC) when it was included among the sacred animals of Egypt. Statues of the animal were plentiful by the Ptolemaic Period (332-32 BC).

In Egyptian mythology, Ra would morph into a giant ichneumon to fight the evil god-snake Apopis.  Ichneumon worship has been attested in several cities: Heliopolis, Buto, Sais, Athribis, Bubastis, Herakleopolis Magna, etc. Numerous ichneumon mummies have been found as well.

The ichneumon was described by ancient authors like Diodorus, who wrote that the mongoose helped control the population of crocodiles in Egypt by eating crocodile eggs.

More on the ichneumon…