Death Dogs: Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt
The Egyptian jackal gods, represented with jackal heads on human bodies or entirely as animals, are distinctively Egyptian deities. They served essential functions in the Egyptians’ understanding of what happened after death and acted as guides and protectors in the complex process of reaching the afterlife.
We do not know exactly when and why ancient Egyptians began associating jackals and other canines with funerary gods, but the association began at some point in prehistory, perhaps from observations of these animals’ scavenging habits. Already in the Predynastic period (ca. 5200–3100 BC), jackals had become identifiable symbols of the gods of specific districts, and they appear in some of the earliest written documents to survive from Egypt (around 3100 BC). They are among the earliest funerary gods in Egypt and remained prominent symbols in Egyptian religion for more than 3,000 years.