February 22, 2017

The Ancient Egyptian Royal Guard Dog Abutiu

One of the first recorded dog names in history belongs to the ancient Egyptian dog Abwtjw (transcribed as Abutiu). He is one of the earliest documented domestic animals whose name is known to us.

An Old Kingdom stele from the Sixth Dynasty (2420-2258 B.C.) mentions the royal guard dog Abutiu which kept over his master. We know the dog died before 2280 B.C and that he received an elaborate ceremonial burial at the Giza Necropolis. The stele provides a list of the gifts donated by the pharaoh for the funeral. The dog was ordered by Pharaoh to be buried in a sarcophagus specially made for him. He was wrapped in fine cloth dusted with incense and scented oil. The Pharaoh also had a tomb constructed for his pet by the crews of tomb builders.

Old Kingdom stele mentioning the dog named [abwtjw] Abutiu. The white limestone tablet measures 54.2×28.2×23.2 cm (21.3×11.1×9.1 in)  

The tablet had been reused as a burial chamber lining of a Sixth Dynasty mastaba after the demolition of the funerary chapel belonging to Abutiu's owner, where the stone likely had originally been installed. The tomb in which the tablet was discovered is located in Cemetery G 2100 of Giza West Field, close to the western side of the Great Pyramid of Giza (Pyramid of Khufu/Kheops). Neither the dog's grave nor mummy have been recovered.The mastaba was already recorded in the excavations of 1912. The discovery of the tablet was on 13 October 1935 by Egyptologist George A. Reisner during a joint Harvard University-Boston Museum of Fine Arts expedition, and removed from the site four days later. The stele was photographed by the main expedition photographer Mohammedani Ibrahim.The tablet is currently in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (inventory number JE 67573). Part of a leash is visible on the upper-right corner, suggesting that the tablet displayed an image of Abutiu with his owner. In absence of a depiction of the dog we can try to reconstruct his breed by the information given on the tablet.The text characterizes him as Ṯsm (Tesem) The ancient Egyptian name for "hunting dog" (sighthound) was tesem. The tesem was generally characterized by a long narrow muzzle, nearly straight facial profile, erect ears, slender body, long neck and limbs, curly tailed ,and the habit of hunting by sight rather than by smell.
Depiction of two tesem dogs on a relief at the Tomb of Mereruka. 
Dynasty VI 2345-2333 B.C 
The text of the inscription translated by Reisner describes the gifts offered by the pharaoh in tribute at Abutiu's funeral: 'The dog which was the guard of His Majesty, Abuwtiyuw is his name. His Majesty ordered that he be buried (ceremonially), that he be given a coffin from the royal treasury, fine linen in great quantity, (and) incense. His Majesty (also) gave perfumed ointment, and (ordered) that a tomb be built for him by the gangs of masons. His Majesty did this for him in order that he (the dog) might be Honoured (before the great god, Anubis).' Unfortunately we do not know the name of the Pharaoh. According to Reisner, the name "Abuwtiyuw" is not fully translatable, but he surmised that bw ("bu") is an onomatopoeic representation of a dog's bark, as this component often is found in Ancient Egyptian dog names. Edward C. Martin Jr. points out that the name, or its variant transliteration of Abutiu, means "With Pointed Ears", which would fit the description of the Tesem.
Tablet in situ  picture taken in 1912
 Tablet photographed in situ in 1912 still part of the burial chamber lining
All the pictures are taken from The Giza Archives Link is housed primarily in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and, to a lesser extent, at Harvard University. The single longest-running Giza excavation took place between 1902 and 1947, undertaken jointly by Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts,Boston(MFA). Directed by George A. Reisner, the "Harvard–MFA Expedition" unearthed thousands of Giza artifacts, and amassed the largest archaeological documentary archive of any Giza expedition. 

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