Dwarfs honoured as Gods in ancient Egypt
Dwarfs honoured in ancient Egypt, research reveals
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
The ancient Egyptians looked on dwarfs as magical figures and elevated some to the status of gods, an American doctor's study says.
Dr Chahira Kozma, of Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, has used inscriptions and representations on tomb and temple walls, papyrus documents and other objects, as well as human remains, to see how achondroplasia, a cause of the most common type of dwarfism, was regarded in ancient times.
Dr Kozma reports in the American Journal of Medical Genetics next month how "dwarfs were likely accepted in ancient Egypt and were given a visible role in the society. Furthermore their daily activities suggest integration in daily life and that their disorder was not shown as a physical handicap."
Ancient Egyptian society had a strong code of ethics and commandments to be respectful towards dwarfs, the crippled and blind.
Depictions of dwarfism in tomb and vase paintings, statues and other art forms are numerous and indicate that dwarfs were employed as personal attendants, animal carers, jewellers, dancers and entertainers.
Several dwarfs were members of high officials' households and were esteemed enough to receive lavish burial sites in the royal cemetery close to the pyramids.
Seneb, one such revered dwarf, lived in the 4th or early 5th dynasty in Giza. He was the overseer of the palace dwarfs, the chief of the royal wardrobe and priest of the funerary cults of Khufu. Around the tomb of Seneb, archaeologists have found tombs of other dwarfs.
Ordinary dwarfs are depicted in at least 50 tombs and the repetition of certain pictures shows they were well integrated into society.
The depiction of dwarfs as shown in records available from ancient Egypt, the numerous figurines and amulets that were formed in their shape, as well as text from papyri invoking their magical powers, such as protection against snakes, leads Dr Kozma to conclude that "the image of short people in ancient Egypt is essentially positive".