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Scientists Search for the Land of Punt

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Africa Baboon SkullHANOVER, NEW HAMPSHIRE—According to a Science Magazine report, primatologist Nathaniel Dominy of Dartmouth College and his colleagues analyzed the chemical composition of teeth from mummified baboon remains stored in the British Museum and the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London, and compared them to samples taken from baboons from eastern Africa and southern Arabia. Hamadryas baboons were believed by ancient Egyptians to be the embodiment of the god Thoth, who was associated with the moon and wisdom, and Amun-Ra, the sun god. The highly valued, living animals were imported from the mysterious Land of Punt, a trading partner that also supplied Egypt with incense, gold, and leopard skins for more than 1,100 years. Scholars have long debated its geographic location, but the study suggests that two New Kingdom–period hamadryas baboons had been born and raised somewhere in the regions now known as Eritrea, Ethiopia, and northwest Somalia. Dominy said this information could help narrow possible locations for the Land of Punt. The study also found that the chemical composition of olive baboon remains in the study are consistent with being born and raised in Egypt, which suggests they had been bred in captivity. To read about Egyptian animal mummies, go to "Messengers to the Gods."

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