Set-beast investigation #1: Saiga Antelope

There are many theories about whether the Set-beast is based on a real animal, whether it is a compilation of creatures (like Ammit), or a completely mythological being.
While watching the ‘Grasslands’ episode of Sir David Attenborough’s ‘Planet Earth II’ I came face to face with an Ice Age relic: the Saiga Antelope. Just look at that nose! How can you not see a resemblance to the Egyptian God Set when you look at it?

By Vladimir Yu. Arkhipov, Arkhivov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8955913

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Review: Images of Set: Changing Impressions of a Multi-faceted God by Joan Ann Lansberry

The author introduces us to Set from his earliest to latest depictions in Egyptian art, with each chapter exploring different periods of Egyptian history in chronological order. While, for the most part, this was useful in showing the evolution of Set over the years, it also led to a slightly disjointed narrative when exploring the themes associated with the God.

Chapter one explores the earliest images of Set, and it makes clear that even in the Naqada I era he was known as “the lord of the sedges”, establishing his importance as representative of Upper Egypt, alongside Horus as “lord of the papyrus country” (Lower Egypt). Set’s association was with the city of Naqada, his cult centre, where he became known as nbwty – “the golden one.” He is thus often referred to as “Lord of Nubt.”

Interestingly, in the Labels from King Scorpion’s tomb Set, though shown in his animal form, is not shown with the typical erect tail, yet on a detail from the same king’s mace head, he is. The author then goes on to comment on the canine-like appearance of Set in Djoser’s temples, and quotes Ken Moss’ theory that the Set animal may in fact be based on a breed of hunting dog called the Saluki. Their ears were often cropped, producing a squared tip, and when running these square-tipped ears and the tail stick up.
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