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Land of Punt

26 October 2023
Archaeology, Genetics

At https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/10/231024110554.htm … we have a story about the source of baboons that were mummified as votive offerings after their death – to the god Thoth. Nowadays, people that live in the vicinity of baboons are not very fond of them as they will enter houses or gardens to scavenge or make a mess of crops in fields. Why did the ancient Egyptians regard them as special animals? An enduring mystery.

The Egyptians regarded hamadryas baboons as their particular species. Genetic analysis of a mummified baboon was compared to genetic samples from modern baboons, in a Current Biology article – see https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.87513 … They chose baboons from regions where modern hamadryas live in the modern world in order to find out where the ancient baboon originated. It seeems the research showed that the Horn of Africa was the most likely source region. Specifically in a  well defined coastal region of what is now Eritrea and neighbouring areas. This seems to reinforce what was already guessed – so the result was not a surprise. It included the region where the port of Adulis is thought to have been located – which was active during the Roman era. However, the Egyptians were obtaining baboons from the region long before Adulis is thought to have flourished as a trading centre and port. In ancient Egyptian texts baboons were closely associated with the Land of Punt. The genes of the mummified baboon date from a time when references to Punt ceased to exist. Geographically, Punt must have been close to Adulis.

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