A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
When they were first depicted in the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2030–1640 B.C.), demons were often shown gripping fearsome knives to ward off malevolent forces. They not only held these weapons with their hands or forepaws, but, also, in rare instances, with one foot. Egyptologist Kasia Szpakowska has found that by the New Kingdom (ca. 1550–1070 B.C.), a few demons seem to have acquired a new means of wielding these weapons. Szpakowska has identified at least 30 depictions of demons brandishing knives with both of their feet or hindpaws. None of the artifacts identify the demons’ names or explain what, exactly, they are doing. But, by studying the placement of the figures, Szpakowska concluded that at least half seem to be engaged in some kind of dance. She believes the dance may be similar to the haka performed by the Maori of New Zealand. The haka, sometimes presented as an intimidating war dance, involves simple steps—stomp to the side, face forward, and then stomp to the other side. The New Kingdom demons may have been engaging in similar moves. Perhaps, thinks Szpakowska, the Egyptians were trying to show these demons as warrior dancers ready to protect their charges with knives bristling from every available limb.
A Revolutionary War shipwreck, early Buddhism in Pakistan, ancient ear surgery, and following a conquistador to Kansas
A curse for every occasion