A Belgium-based Egyptologist has discovered the oldest of ancient Egyptian demons -- demonic entities populated the ancient Egyptians’ imaginations as far back as 4,000 years ago. The discovery, presented recently at the International Conference on Ancient Egyptian Demonology, these demons gripped their victims and cut off their heads.
Wael Sherbiny, an independent scholar who specializes in the ancient Egyptian religious texts, found two demons on two Middle Kingdom coffins presumed to be about 4,000 years old. The third demon was identified in a 4,000-year-old leather roll the researcher had previously discovered in the shelves of the Egyptian museum in Cairo, where it was stored and forgotten for more than 70 years. This leather roll was the oldest and longest Egyptian leather manuscript.
“These three demons are already familiar to scholars from ancient texts. However, the depiction of two of them was unknown until now,” Sherbiny told Discovery News. “The drawings show them in either a purely zoomorphic or anthropomorphic representation.”
The two demons are named In-tep and Chery-benut. In-tep appears as a dog-like baboon and Chery-benut is an unspecified figure with human head. They appear as guardians at the entrance of a complex building. The temple-like building they supposedly guarded contained several interior chambers also guarded by demonic entities. “The texts link this building to the moon god Thoth and the bark of the sun god,” Sherbiny said.
He noted that apart from their names, there are no additional textual elements that refer to the tasks of these two demons. “The name of the first demon, In-tep, may denote his dangerous role in severing heads as a punishment to any intruder of the sacred space,” Sherbiny said.
The third demon, Ikenty, guarded a fiery gate that led to a restricted area concealing a divine image. The demon’s appearance was already known from other a previous discovery. Ikenty appears in the form of a large bird with a black feline head. Sherbiny discovered the same demon in a slightly different, but highly intriguing form in a much older Cairo leather roll. This is possibly oldest appearance of Ikenty. “The texts indicate that this demon has a swift attack with inescapably powerful grip on whomever he sees,” Sherbiny said.
The ancient Egyptian world of belief was inhabited by a huge number of entities with super powers. They could play both malevolent or benevolent roles, as threats, maladies and dangers, or as protectors, helpers and defenders. “They turn up in variety of contexts that touch upon different spheres of human life and after life,” Sherbiny said.