Ancient Egyptian painting shows an extinct goose

Researchers from the University of Queensland examined a 4600 year old Egyptian painting. During the investigation, a representation of a speckled goose was noticed. The scientist Dr. Anthony Romilio noticed a strange and beautiful bird, unlike modern red-breasted geese, whose face, body, chest, wings and legs were of different and bold colors and patterns. The painting is called “Middle Geese” and was discovered at the end of the 19th century.

While the painting had been studied for generations, no one had noticed that it represented an unknown species of geese. The researcher says the artistic freedom could explain some of the differences between the geese depicted and the modern brothers. However, other artwork on the site features extremely realistic depictions of other birds and mammals.

The scientist explicitly stated that no bones of modern red-breasted geese have been found at any Egyptian archaeological site. However, bones of similar, not identical, birds have been found in Crete. The work of art is the only documentation of this clearly patterned goose, which appears to have died out globally. Extinct animals have already been identified in ancient art, but not all species have been scientifically confirmed.

Romilio points out that Egypt wasn’t always mostly a desert and had a history of biodiversity rich in species that are now extinct. In ancient times, the Sahara was green and covered in grasslands, lakes, and forests that featured a wide variety of animal species, many of which were depicted in tombs and temples.

The work of art examined in this case comes from the tomb of Nefermaat and Itet at Medium and is now in the Cairo Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. Ancient Egyptian art has also shown the ancestor of modern cattle known as the aurochs and previously unknown forms of the gazelle, oryx, antelope and donkey.

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