The Saqqara Bird is a bird-shaped artifact made of sycamore wood, discovered during the 1898 excavation of the Saqqara tomb in Saqqara, Egypt. It has been dated to approximately 200 BCE, and is now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The Saqqara Bird has a wingspan of 180 mm (7.1 in) and weighs 39.12 g (1.380 oz). Its purpose is not understood because of a lack of period documentation.
Some think the Saqqara Bird may be a ceremonial object because the falcon, the bird after which the Saqqara Bird is modeled, is the form most commonly used to represent several of the most important gods of Egyptian mythology, most notably the falcon deity Horus and the sun deity Ra Horakhty. Others have posited it may have been a toy for an elite child, or that it could have functioned as a weather vane. Some have also speculated it may have been used as a sort of boomerang, as such technology was common and well known in ancient Egypt in the form of a throwing stick used for hunting waterfowl. Another hypothesis is that this bird was positioned on the masthead of sacred boats used during the Opet Festival. Reliefs showing those boats are found in the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak and date to the late New Kingdom.
Some have suggested that the Saqqara Bird may represent evidence that knowledge of the principles of aviation existed many centuries before such are generally believed to have first been discovered. Egyptian physician and dowser Khalil Messiha has speculated that the ancient Egyptians developed the first aircraft.
According to Kevin Desmond writing about the history of airplanes, no evidence has been found suggesting that these claims are true. As a result, the theory that the Saqqara Bird is a model of a flying machine is not accepted by mainstream Egyptologists. Richard P. Hallion notes that it is "far too heavy and unstable itself to fly." Norman Levitt and Paul R. Gross comment "The evidence? If you build a copy of balsa wood (rather than the original sycamore), and then add a vertical stabilizer (not present in the original) to the tail, you get a so-so version of a toy glider!"
- Quimbaya artifacts, a few resemble airplanes
- Messiha, Hishmat (1973). "[Saqqara Bird]". Egypt Travel Magazine. Cairo: Ministry of Tourism, Dept. of Publicity (153). ISSN 0013-2381. OCLC 1567664.
- Larry Orcutt (2001). "Model Airplane?". Catchpenny Mysteries of Ancient Egypt. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
- Khonsu Temple relief with three sacred boats[dead link]
- The Temple of Khonsu, Volume 1: Scenes of King Herihor in the Court, The Epigraphic Survey. Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 1979. ISBN 0-918986-20-6. Reproduction of the reliefs are visible at page 107 and following pages oi.uchicago.edu.
- "2002 Fall". American Society of Dowsers.
- Messiha, Khalil; et al. (1991). "Aeronautics: African Experimental Aeronautics: A 2000-Year Old Model Glider". In Ivan van Sertima (ed.). Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern. Journal of African Civilizations. Vol. 5. New Brunswick: Transaction Books. pp. 92–99. ISBN 0-87855-941-8. Retrieved 2010-04-21.
- Desmond, Kevin (20 September 2018). Electric Airplanes and Drones: A History. McFarland. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-4766-6961-8. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
- Hallion, Richard P. (2003). Taking Flight: Inventing the Aerial Age, from Antiquity Through the First World War. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0195160352.
- Gross, Paul R.; Levitt, Norman (3 December 1997). Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science. JHU Press. ISBN 978-1-4214-0487-5. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
The evidence? If you build a copy of balsa wood (rather than the original sycamore), and then add a vertical stabilizer (not present in the original) to the tail, you get a so-so version of a toy glider!