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Showing posts from August 21, 2010

the first zoo in the world

Strange animal burials at the ancient Egyptian capital of Hierakonpolis point to the existence of a large, exotic menagerie around 3500 B.C. The 2009 field season produced 10 dogs, a baby hippo, a Harte beast, a cow and calf, and an elephant. The tally for this Predynastic period zoo now stands at 112 critters, including 2 elephants, 3 hippos, 11 baboons, and 6 wildcats. Hierakonpolis, on the Nile south of Luxor, was settled by 4000 B.C., and by the time these animals were buried around 500 years later, was Egypt's largest urban center. The animal burials are in the city's elite cemetery, where rulers and their family members, along with retainers--some possibly sacrificed--were interred. Hierakonpolis Expedition director Renee Friedman found evidence indicating that the city's powerful rulers kept the animals in captivity, almost as in a zoo. Baboons (including the one at left), a wild cat, and a hippo show signs of bone fractures that can only have healed in a protecte…