Historical Events  Religion

Anubis had the head of a jackal

Anubis had the head of a wolf

The Egyptian God of the afterlife

He's always shown as a human body with a black animal's head, but was Anubis, the ancient Egyptian God of the afterife, part jackal or wolf?

Many references exist to him being a jackal on the internet, but it turns out he was officially reclassified as a wolf. DNA research originally from 2011, and reported in 2015, shows a new Golden Jackal was hiding in plain sight all along. The species split from the wolf about a million years ago, and one remaining African whilst the other was Eurasian. The significance? There were no pure jackals in Egypt at the time Anubis was being worshipped - but there were African golden jackals, which are more closely related to African grey wolves.

Golden jackal

The origins of Anubis go back to the very dawn of the Egyptian era, but some of the details are incosistent from there on. He became associated with watching over the dead because, it was thought, jackals often appeared in cemeteries. This idea grew into him performing various other functions related to death, such as embalming, and watched over bodies during the mummification ceremony.

He is also said to be variously a son of Ra or the son of Nephthys and Usir. One story has him hiding in marshes by the Nile river as a child, which will be familiar to anyone who knows the story of Moses. In this version, the baby was raised by jackals.

Jackals Masks

The Egyptians believed that after mummification, the heart was given to Anubis. All the priests, called the stm,  in the ceremony wore large elaborate masks in the form of a jackal's head. The head was black because it is associated with the color of the embalmed body.

In a fascinating twist, it has emerged some Egyptologists have been referring to "The Animal of Anubis" all along, strongly implying it was neither a jackal or a dog (wolf) but a different species entirely. This is exactly what the modern DNA results show, but beibng muck closer to the wolf than the jackal.