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Cattle: social function

Cattle bones have often been found next to coffins in tombs from the Naqada Period to the First Intermediate Period (click here), demonstrating the importance of beef for the food supply in the afterlife. However, the possession of cattle must also have been from earliest times an important social marker. A large number of cattle would have implied high social status. Cattle and the slaughtering of single animals are an important part of the tomb decoration in all periods. The importance of cattle is especially well-known from the sources (including written documents) of the New Kingdom (about 1550-1069 BC). The title 'overseer of the cattle of Amun' is one of the highest of the state administration. The 'high steward' who was responsible for the royal and state estates often bears this title. Cattle were branded to signify ownership.

cattle, painting in a Fourth Dynasty tomb
stela of the 'overseer of cattle'
Bronze branding iron with the name of king Ahmose (I)
painting from a tomb at Meydum
UC 36437



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