Saqqara Bird

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Saqqara Bird
Width18 cm
Createdc. 200 BC
Badrashin, Giza, Egypt
Present locationCairo, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
The bird from the side

The Saqqara Bird is a bird-shaped artifact made of sycamore wood, discovered during the 1898 excavation of the tomb of Pa-di-Imen 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 18 cm (7.1 in) and weighs 39.12 g (1.380 oz).[1] Its purpose is not understood because of a lack of period documentation.

Mainstream views[edit]

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. Or it may have been a toy for an elite child, or it could have functioned as a weather vane. Alternatively, 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.[citation needed] Another hypothesis is that this bird was positioned on the masthead of sacred boats used during the Opet Festival.[2][3] Reliefs showing those boats are found in the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak and date to the late New Kingdom.[4]

Fringe views[edit]

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[5] Khalil Messiha has speculated that the ancient Egyptians developed the first aircraft.[6]

According to Kevin Desmond writing about the history of airplanes, no evidence has been found suggesting that these claims are true.[7] 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".[8] 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!"[9]

Researchers at the Institute of Aerospace Technology Bremen conducted a CFD simulation of the artifact based on a 3D scan for the first time in 2023. The results showed that the artifact has a low maximum glide ratio and thus the glide properties are not sufficient for use as a handglider. The center of mass of the artifact is also located at the trailing edge of the wing and thereby behind the neutral point. The resulting longitudinal stability does not meet modern aircraft design guidelines. In addition, the asymmetric lift distribution in spanwise direction leads to an uncontrolled roll moment, which results in the fact that the artifact cannot follow a straight flight path, but will fly a turn. Consequently, the results obtained by simulation cannot confirm that the Saqqara Bird was an object of ancient knowledge about aerodynamics.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Messiha, Hishmat (1973). "[Saqqara Bird]". Egypt Travel Magazine (153). Cairo: Ministry of Tourism, Department of Publicity. ISSN 0013-2381. OCLC 1567664.
  2. ^ Larry Orcutt (2001). "Model Airplane?". Catchpenny Mysteries of Ancient Egypt. Retrieved 2023-01-19.
  3. ^ "Khonsu Temple relief with three sacred boats". Archived from the original on 2012-06-02. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
  4. ^ The Epigraphic Survey; Wente, Edward F. (preface); et al. (1979). The Temple of Khonsu, Volume 1: Scenes of King Herihor in the Court. The University of Chicago Oriental Institute Publications (OIP). Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. ISBN 978-0-918986-20-7. Reproduction of the reliefs are visible at page 107 and following pages; available at
  5. ^ "2002 Fall". American Society of Dowsers.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Desmond, Kevin (20 September 2018). Electric Airplanes and Drones: A History. McFarland. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-4766-6961-8. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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!
  10. ^ Lesemann, Leon; Zierow, Michel (2023). "Aerodynamic Investigation on the Artefact "Bird of Saqqara"" (PDF). Acta Mechanica et Automatica. 17 (3): 405–409. doi:10.2478/ama-2023-0046. S2CID 259765464.