|Behind the Scenes|
The serpopard is a term applied by some modern researchers to what is described as a mythical animal known from Ancient Egyptian depictions.
The term serpopard is not used in any original texts, and is a phrase coined in the modern era. The image is first featured on decorated cosmetic palettes from the Pre-Dynastic Period but later appears on Middle Kingdom tomb paintings and apotropaic items such as magic wands. Examples include the Narmer Palette and the Small Palette of Nekhen. The image originates in contemporary Mesopotamian art work however is later Egyptianiased and used in an egyptian context.
The "serpopard" has been defined as a cross between a serpent and leopard. It is comprised of a feline body with a long snake like neck. The image generally is classified as a feline, however, and with close inspection resembles unusually long-necked lionesses instead. It bears the characteristic tuft of the species at the end of the tail, there are no spots, the round-eared head most closely resembles the lioness rather than a serpent because serpents do not have ears, and there are no typical serpent features such as scales, tongue, or head shape.
Similarly to other ancient peoples, the Egyptians are known for their very accurate depictions of the creatures they observed. However a serpopard is clearly an imaginary creature. Their composite creatures, assembled for deities who had become merged in religious concepts, have very recognizable features of the animals originally representing those deities merged.
Lionesses played an important role in the religious concepts of both Upper and Lower Egypt and are likely to have been designated as animals associated with protection and royalty. The long necks may be a simple exaggeration, used as a framing feature in an artistic motif, either forming the cosmetic mixing area in the Narmer Palette or surrounding it in the Small Palette.