Lesson Plan - Get It!
- What animals make good pets? What is the purpose of having a pet?
Let's ask an ancient Egyptian and see if he or she agrees!
Today, many people own pets.
- What types of pet(s) do you have in your family?
- If you do not own any pets, what types of pets do people in your neighborhood have?
Pets provide an additional family member and are typically used as companions. The ancient Egyptians also kept pets. Some of the pets they had were similar to the pets we have today, and others would be considered very strange by today's standards.
The ancient Egyptians kept a variety of pets in their homes. Think about the region and climate where Egypt is located. If you are uncertain where Egypt is located, you can find it on the following map:
- What types of pets do you think people in that region would have kept?
The average ancient Egyptian kept cats, dogs, monkeys, and falcons as pets, but the wealthy had even more extravagant pets. Members of the royal family were known to keep some of the fiercest animals in all of Egypt as pets: lions and cheetahs!
Ancient Egyptians' pets were not meant to be companions as they are today. Rather, they were kept for more practical purposes. Pets were used for protection from outside intruders and predators, and to keep rodents out of the home.
Look at the types of pets listed above.
- Which pets do you think were used for protection?
- Which pets do you think were used to keep rodents out?
Pets and animals throughout ancient Egypt also had a spiritual purpose. The ancient Egyptians were a deeply religious and superstitious group. They were polytheistic, meaning they believed in more than one god, and historians think the ancient Egyptians likely worshiped more than 800 gods! There was a different god associated with nearly every object and action.
You can learn more about the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians by completing the Elephango lesson under Additional Resources in the right-hand sidebar. Since there was a god or goddess associated with nearly everything in nature, it makes sense that there was a god associated with each type of animal.
In ancient Egyptian art, many of the gods took the form of animals, and the ancient Egyptians believed that certain types of animals were gods reincarnated. Reincarnation is a belief, held by certain religions, that the souls of people or gods can be reborn in different physical forms. While this belief is not as widespread today, the ancient Egyptians used this theory as a reason for worshipping and honoring particular animals.
Certain animals gained more attention than others.
- Which animals do you think were most important in Egyptian society?
Some of the most worshiped animals in ancient Egypt included the cow, crocodile, and falcon, but the most respected animal of all was the cat. Ra, the ancient Egyptian god of the sun, was one of the most important gods in ancient Egyptian culture. Ra took the form of a cat, so cats were considered the most sacred animals. When a pet cat died, people would often mourn the same way they would if one of their children had died.
The following Catlessons.com video, 10 Facts About Cats in Ancient Egypt, will share a few facts about the ways cats were viewed and worshiped in ancient Egyptian culture. Before you begin watching the video, copy the following chart onto a separate piece of paper:
As you watch the video, make a list of the ways the ancient Egyptians used cats in everyday life on the side entitled, "Practical Purposes." Then, make a list of all the ways the Egyptians worshiped cats and what cats meant to them spiritually on the side entitled, "Spiritual Purposes."
When you are finished, share your chart with your teacher or parent. Then, discuss what the ancient Egyptians did with cats when they died.
The most sacred animals were often mummified when they died. Animals were mummified for a number of reasons. Some wanted their pets mummified so they could be with them in the afterlife. Other animals were mummified so they could be used as food for the deceased in the afterlife. Of all the reasons for animal mummification, the most popular was for spiritual purposes. Mummifying an animal was like making a sacrifice to a god, and it was believed performing this ritual would help one gain favor from the god the animal represented. If you would like to learn more about what mummification is and the mummification process, be sure to check out the Elephango lesson under Additional Resources.
- What do you think about the ancient Egyptian view of cats?
- Based on what you have learned so far, does their view of cats seem reasonable or crazy?
When you are ready, move on to the Got It? section to learn more about the animals the ancient Egyptians worshiped, and why they worshiped those animals.