ISBN: 978-2-87457-145-9

Reality or fiction? References to cannibalism in egyptian and mesopotamian texts

 = Paper = 

by Mattias KARLSSON, in Res Antiquae 20, 2023.

The ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations are seldom linked to the practice of cannibalism (anthropophagy). Nevertheless, there are isolated instances of references to cannibalism in ancient Egyptian (Cannibal Hymn, autobiography of Ankhtifi, Heqanakht Letter II) and Mesopotamian (Babylonian creation myth, annals of Ashurbanipal) texts. This paper presents and discusses these references from the viewpoints of reality or fiction, aiming at determining how seriously one should take the references in question, thus contributing to the debate on cannibalism in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Evaluating the isolated references in question, clear agendas behind the narrations are identified, leading to the conclusion that these isolated references are poor evidence of cannibalism in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Keywords: cannibalism, anthropophagy, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Pyramid texts, Ankhtifi, Heqanakht, Atrahasis