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From the Egyptian Book of the Dead: The animal-headed god Anubis cradles the heart of the dead.

The theriocephaly (also Theriocephalie) or Tierköpfigkeit ( Greek  θηρίον Therion : wild animal and κεφαλή kephale : head) referred to in the classical studies , the combination of a human body with an animal head ( hybrids ). Theriokephaly is particularly common among the ancient Egyptian gods and may have its origin in shamanism , because some rock carvings and cave paintings depict such figures, but it is not known whether they are real hybrid creatures or mask wearers. Examples include the “magician” from Trois Frères ( Ariège ), a human figure with a bison head and long tail in Le Gabillou ( Dordogne ) and the famous lion figure , a statuette from the Hohlenstein barn in the Lone Valley . Similar representations can also be found in the much more recent rock art of the Sahara (e.g. rock engravings in Wadi Mathendous des Fezzan ). Here, too, it is debatable whether they are shamans with masks or proper theriocephalic hybrids. One of the earliest such figures is the goat demon , the potential origin of the god Pan . The reverse combination of an animal's body with a human head, on the other hand, is absent in both the Paleolithic and post-glacial rock art, but is common in ancient Egypt (for example with the sphinxes ), as shown in the illustration with the soul bird, which was a common concept in shamanism Greece, Mesopotamia and Persia, usually used as symbols of power by rulers. However, whether there is a direct connection between the theriocephalic demons of the Neolithic and the animal-headed gods of ancient Egypt is disputed. In Mesopotamia, however , this connection is reasonably conclusive. Suspected early theriocephalic forms have been found at Göbekli Tepe in the extreme southeast of Turkey on the border with Syria .


  • Emil Hoffmann: Lexicon of the Stone Age. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 1999. ISBN 3-406-42125-3
  • Hansjürgen Müller-Beck: The beginnings of art 30,000 years ago . Konrad Theiss Verlag, Stuttgart 1987. ISBN 3-8062-0508-6
  • Klaus Schmidt: You built the first temple. The enigmatic sanctuary of the Stone Age hunters . Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2006. ISBN 3-406-53500-3
  • Karl Heinz Striedter: Rock paintings of the Sahara. Prestel Verlag, Munich 1984. ISBN 3-7913-0634-0

Individual evidence

  1. Hoffmann: Lexicon of the Stone Age, p. 333.
  2. Müller-Beck: Beginnings of Art 30,000 Years Ago, pp. 17, 22, 75.
  3. ^ Striedter: rock paintings of the Sahara, p. 48, 54 and Plates 23, 25 - 30, 32, 126.
  4. ^ Schmidt: They built the first temples, pp. 215f, 220