Depending on where you lived during ancient Egyptian times, you may have followed tradition in either worshipping or scorning the fish. Some places considered the creatures sacred and no one was allowed to eat one. In other locations, the fish was a part of the local diet. In this article, you will not only learn more about the connection between fish and ancient Egypt, but also some of the ways the fish was preserved for later consumption.
The kinds of fish that used to live during ancient Egyptian days included carp, perch and catfish.
Marine life also appeared in ancient myths and assisted in the worship of certain gods and goddesses. For example, the goddess Hatmehit had been given the nickname of the ‘Chief of Fish’. She hailed from the Delta city of Per-banebdjedet (Mendes) and those who worshipped her did so by acknowledging her in the form of a fish. Sometimes, the goddess was depicted as a woman with a fish emblem on her head.
Fish were also linked to the sun god, Ra. The deity was known for traveling by way of a solar boat. The Rilapia (or Chromis), as well as the Abdju fish were thought to serve as guides of the boat while it traveled through the underworld. The fish would warn the god that his enemy (the water snake Apep) was approaching.
With an abundance of fish in the region, the poor dined on the creature because they had better access to the creatures over other sources of meat. Wealthier locals would occasionally eat fish, but they also kept them as features of ornamental ponds. Because of the association with Set (the god linked to the desert, storms, and foreigners, it is interesting that the pharaoh, priests and the Akhu were not allowed to eat fish. An Egyptian myth tells of a Nile carp or other fish that consumed the phallus of Osirus when he was chopped up by Set.
Since Egypt was situated in a hot climate zone, the kinds of foods eaten in the region were greatly affected , especially when it came to fish. Whatever fish could not be consumed fresh, it had to be quickly preserved. The most popular methods were to salt and brine the fish. Other times, the leftover fish was dried or smoked, and then stored in earthen vessels. It was also common to create a type of pemmican (pounded dry meat that was mixed with melted fat) to treat the fish. Fish roe, beer or honey also served as preservatives for fish.
Not all fish was seen as tasty or edible in the eyes of all Egyptians. For example, the bu and the shep were two examples that had been avoided because of its taste. Other kinds of fish that were eaten during ancient Egyptian days were mullets, eels, tilapia, tiger fish, and moon fish.