It has been said that the ancient Egyptians were raised to tolerate all kinds of toil and hardship; they nevertheless also liked to amuse themselves with comic relief in their everyday life. For example, ancient Egyptian drawing can be quite accurate and at times even spirited. What scholars have described as caricatures are as informative and artistic as supposed serious works of art. Ancient Egyptians have left countless images representing religious, political, economic, and/or social aspects of their life. Scenes in Egyptian tombs could be imitated on ostraca (potsherds) that portray animals as characters performing what would normally be human roles, behaviors, or occupations. These scenes reveal the artists’ sense of comedy and humor and demonstrate their freedom of thought and expression to reproduce such lighthearted imitations of religious or funeral scenes. This paper will focus on a selection of drawings on ostraca as well as three papyri that show animals—often dressed in human garb and posing with human gestures—performing parodies of human pursuits (such as scribes, servants, musicians, dancers, leaders, and herdsmen).
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