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Anubis in the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Luxor (New Kingdom)

The Egyptian god Anubis in the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Luxor (New Kingdom)

Wolf head and black color

Anubis was the way ancient Greek historians like Herodotus wrote the Egyptian word Inpu. Inpu, or Anubis, was an Egyptian god, the son of Ra. He was the god of the dead and the underworld in Old Kingdom Egypt.

Old Kingdom Egypt
Egyptian religion
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Because African wolves went to cemeteries, attracted by the smell of dead people’s bodies, Anubis is often shown with the head of an African wolf, or entirely in the form of an African wolf. His head is black because black was the color of death and of the black dirt in the Nile valley, the symbol of rebirth.

(Not a jackal but a wolf: recent DNA evidence)

The history of wolves and dogs
What was the Nile valley like?

Anubis weighing the souls of the dead

Anubis weighing the souls of the dead

Weighing the soul

Anubis was important throughout the process of getting a dead person ready to be buried. When the embalmers were making the dead body into a mummy, the head embalmer wore an Anubis costume.

Egyptian mummies
Weighing the heart

Then people also thought of Anubis as the god who weighed your heart to see if you were good or bad after you died.

Anubis as the son of Osiris

By the time of the Middle Kingdom, people had stopped thinking of Anubis as the main god of the dead.

What was the Middle Kingdom?
Who was Osiris?

Instead, they put Osiris in that position. People gradually began to think of Anubis as the son of Osiris, and Osiris’ assistant in dealing with the dead. Or, sometimes they thought of him as the son of Osiris’ brother Set.

Learn by doing: Egyptian afterlife project
More about ancient Egyptian gods

Bibliography and further reading about the Egyptian god Anubis:

Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, by Leonard Fisher (1999). For younger kids.

The Egypt Game (Yearling Newbery), by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (reprinted 1985). A great kids’ story about kids who pretend to be Egyptian gods and goddesses.

Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice, by John Baines, David Silverman, and Leonard Lesko (1991). Pretty hard going, but it will tell you everything you need to know about Egyptian religion.

More about the Egyptian gods
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