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Baboons Serving Food, from Temple of Horus, Edfu


Baboon Piping for Dancer, Deir el Medina, Thebes


Apes Playing Senet, British Museum, BM EA11888


Ape With Beer Pot, Amarna, Petrie Museum

"The monkey is a most imitative creature, and any bodily action that you teach it, it acquires exactly, so as to be able to display its accomplishment. For instance, it will dance, once it has learnt, and if you teach it, will play the pipe. And I myself have even seen it holding the reins, laying on the whip, and driving a chariot. And once it has learnt whatever it may be, it would never disappoint its teacher. So versatile and so adaptable a thing is Nature."

--- Claudius Aelianus , On the Nature of Animals, Book IV:26

"Under the Ptolemies the Egyptians taught baboons their letters, how to dance, how to play the flute and the harp. And a baboon would demand money for these accomplishments, and would put what was given him into a bag which he carried attached to his person, just like professional beggars."

--- Claudius Aelianus, On the Nature of Animals, Book V:10

"Others may compare you to Cleopatra's monkey, who, they tell us, had learned to dance gracefully, and in tune, and was wonderfully admired for her elegance and decorum, adapting her every motion and gesture to the hymnaeal song; but chancing to espy some figs, I think, or almonds, at a little distance from her, took a sudden farewell at once of the flutes, songs, and dances, threw the mask away, or rather tore it off, laid hold on the fruit, and most voraciously devoured it."

--- Lucian of Samosata, Apology for 'The Dependent Scholar", 5

"... Mucianus says, that they [apes] have even played at chess, having, by practice, learned to distinguish the different pieces ..."

--- Pliny the Elder

"There is a story of an Egyptian king who taught some apes the sword-dance; the imitative creatures very soon picked it up, and used to perform in purple robes and masks; for some time the show was a great success, till at last an ingenious spectator brought some nuts in with him and threw them down. The apes forgot their dancing at the sight, dropped their humanity, resumed their apehood, and, smashing masks and tearing dresses, had a free fight for the provender. Alas for the corps de ballet and the gravity of the audience!"

--- Lucian of Samosata, The Dead Come to Life or The Fisherman, 36


Ape Playing Harp, Amarna, JE55487


Baboons Collecting Figs, Khnumhotep II (Tomb 3), Beni Hassan


Monkey With Net, 19th Dynasty, CM JE63798


Gathering Doum Fruit, Valley of Kings, 19th Dynasty, JE63796 


Baboon Uses Yolk to Carry Two Jugs for Watering Square Fields With Smaller Monkey on Shoulders, Deir el Medina, Thebes, E6764

Baboons Sitting on Stools Eating Doum Fruit from a Net Bag, Deir el Medina, Thebes, E6380


Capture of Thief, from Mastaba of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, Saqqara

It's really hard to know where to stop with this stuff.  There's much more where I just couldn't find good images: baboon helping to crush grapes, baboon walking dog, baboon petting dog, baboon petting cat, monkey combing a lady's hair, etc.  I had some more decent images that I just held back: I figured "I've made my point."

If you're interested in more monkey-shines please visit this website which has the best coverage anywhere of not only ancient domestication of baboons and other monkeys, but follows up into the twentieth century (he forgot to mention that, allegedly, Charles V had an ape who could play chess).

An excellent, excellent website:

Babbons in Egyptian Religion:

When left to themselves, baboons cluster in groups.  They are very aware of sunrise, like many other animals, and get a bit restless as it nears.  They babble and murmur, sometimes calling out.  When the sun appears, they sometimes get almost ecstatic, jumping and capering about.  Eventually, they settle down in a figure of repose, facing the sun sitting on their haunches, head up exposing their chest and bellies.

The Egyptians took this to mean that baboons had a special relationship with Re, the sun god, and were worshipping him.  They believed that the baboons had a secret language (probably true, but not on the level Egyptians thought).  Eventually, they claimed that only high priests and the pharaoh could understand it. 


Sadly, the early dynasties were something between neglectful and cruel to captive religious baboons, but as the empire waned the "human" gods lapsed and the "animal" gods rose in peasant and priest-class worship and things got a lot better.

For a more thorough coverage of this topic: 

Next time you look at tomb paintings, look for this baboon iconography (it appears almost everywhere).


Baboons with Solar Discs, Ptolemaic, Met Museum 66.99.73

KV62, Pectoral, Tomb of Tuntankhamun, Valley of Kings, Thebes

Thoth in Baboon Form, Ptolemaic, Louvre


Baboons Sit in Judgement Around Afterlife Lake of Fire, Papyrus of Ani, Book of the Dead,BM EA 10470/33

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