Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Enigmatic Spiders Found in Egyptian Rock Art

Friday, December 20, 2013

Kharga-Oasis-SpidersCAIRO, EGYPTAncient Egyptians were renowned for their depictions of animals, but spiders have always been conspicuously absent in their artwork. Now a team led by American University in Cairo Egyptologist Salima Ikram has found a rock panel in the Kharga Oasis in Egypt's Western Desert that could change that. It may hold the first images of spiders in not only ancient Egyptian rock art but in Old World rock art in general. Dating to around 4000 B.C., the panel has several figures that could depict spiders, as well as carvings of what might be webs with insects trapped in them. After consulting with an arachnologist, Ikram learned that a spider species native to the Egyptian desert, Argiope lobata, might have attracted the attention of prehistoric Egyptians because it is known to stay in its web even under the noonday sun. That could have had some special totemic significance to the people who left the artwork behind.