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Egypt’s council on antiquities has announced the discovery of a huge statue of the Egyptian god Thoth as workers lowered the groundwater around Luxor to preserve the ancient site where pharaohs lived and were buried. The colossal artifact, now in four pieces, would have stood more than 35 feet tall — in the shape of a baboon. It dates from the 18th Dynasty, probably the late 14th century B.C. (no pictures have been released yet – the image at left is a small finial from Hermopolis, 26th Dynasty, 664-525 B.C. , catalog # MET.MM.00145, from the Virtual Egyptian Museum).

Thoth was associated with the crescent moon (on the baboon’s head in the picture). He appears most commonly with the head of an ibis, but was also portrayed as a baboon. As he related to humans, Thoth was the god of wisdom, measurement, and science, all of which were highly honored in Egypt.

While contemporary folk might think it odd for wisdom to be associated with baboons, the Egyptians recognized that the imposing simians were among the most intelligent of all animals. 

Before we moderns (or postmoderns) get too smug about the thought of the god of wisdom appearing as a baboon, perhaps we should remember that many of the highest paid business people in America — where we tend to correlate salaries with smarts — are the same people who made some of the dumbest decisions in our history. Just about everyone outside of Wall Street remains incensed that the financial tycoons who gave in to incentives of greed and put the world economy in the tank continue to be rewarded with obscene bonuses in order to “keep the talent.”

With talent like that, I figure, who needs ineptitude?

With just a fraction of one of those bonuses, perhaps we could arrange to swap Wall Street’s bronze bull statue for Luxor’s big baboon. A good dose of wisdom couldn’t hurt.

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