It is not known whether Homo habilis, who lived from 3 million to 1 million years ago, was a hunter. But it is a proven fact that Homo erectus, who lived from 1 million to 500,000 years ago, hunted for nourishment. Cro-Magnon, an ancestor of Neanderthal Man, made tools and works of art out of flint in special workshops.
At least a million years of passionate hunting have passed since then. On the engraving of this Peter Hofer over and under shotgun rifle we have stopped the clock at 3,200 years ago, during the age of the Old, Middle and New Kingdom of Egypt for good reason.
The motif for this engraving depicts a time when the main reason for hunting was not purely the need for nourishment anymore, an element of pleasure had come into it. Of course, the bagged game was still eaten, and the resources obtained, such as fur, skins, bones or horns were used. New hunting methods also appear during these times, the most remarkable example being the chariot hunt in the desert, which appears during the New Kingdom. On the one hand the Egyptian portrayal of the hunt depicts the King as protector of his domain and subjects, this affects even the paintings in burial sites of non-royal people. On the other hand, they also remind us of bygone times when prehistoric man first settled and started to farm the land. During this period hunting for nourishment was supplanted by a sporting attitude toward the hunt. From prehistoric times up to the end of the New Kingdom, hunting scenes of the wild animals that lived in the steppes and desert surrounding the populated areas have been used as decorative paintings in temples and graves. Often the buried person or the King is the focal point of such paintings, there is also a great emphasis on the use of bows and arrows. The depicted hunters almost all use bows, the few exceptions all pertain to royalty. In some scenes the Pharaoh himself is portrayed as a hunter. Because of the Pharaoh's position and the images that go with it, these portrayals use different symbolism. It is his prerogative to hunt the "King of the animals", the lion. Even the other animals hunted by the Pharaoh seem to possess abilities meant to challenge him as a hunter, here he can demonstrate his strength, skill, cleverness and leadership qualities. By shooting these wild animals, he symbolically conquers the powers of chaos which threaten the Egyptian world. According to most sources, the hunt was not carried out in the open country. Before a hunt a large area in the steppe or desert was fenced in. The fencing of the hunting grounds was an important requirement for the control of herds and the trapping of live animals, which could then be kept somewhere else until they were needed. The great amounts of meat required for sacrifices and other religious practices could not be gathered during these rare, albeit large steppe and desert hunts. The geographic peculiarities of the broad estuary of the Nile and of the Faijum, which is also present to a smaller degree in the side rivers of the Middle and Upper Nile valley, brought hunting methods forth which were well adapted to the landscape and its wildlife.
The King hunting in the steppe and desert
Date: 20th Dynasty, Ramses III
The scene presented here depicts King Ramses III hunting in the steppe and desert. The right half shows the upright king in his chariot drawn by galloping horses. On the opposite side the hunted desert and steppe animals are shown in five rows. The chariot seems to be open and has six-spoked wheels, it is outfitted with several weapon holders. On the right side, a voluminous bow holder and a spear quiver are attached, the weapons are sticking out of their mountings. On the other side there are two other quivers, which are obviously empty. On the back of the chariot a slender weapon holder is attached with a club pushed deep into it. The animals on the right seem to be fleeing in panic from the hunters. Some of them are shown at the moment of falling down, some already dead on their backs. The two upper rows depict several gazelles, rabbits and what seems to be a fox. The third row shows nine Oryx antelopes, some of them hit by arrows and close to collapse. The fourth row is dedicated to antelopes and contains the only portrayal of an animal face on in this large scene which is richly decorated with animals. The bottom row presents a large herd of wild donkeys, seven of them are lying on the ground under the horses of the chariot. This gives the impression that the galloping horses have to charge over the dying donkeys. The inscription over the chariot hunting scene praises the strength of the King and glorifies the power with which he conquers the desert dwellers, i.e. the animals of the steppe and desert.
We thank our well-travelled customer for his great interest in the history of the hunt.
Weapon in progress, further scenes will follow
Text, design and engravings Peter Hofer - Austria
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