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IMAGE Revolutions08.jpg

which, examined with care, will satisfy us as being the
same with those which the ancient monuments and
mummies have given as the characteristics of the ibis.
We add an engraving of it. See Fig. 8.
It is a bird rather larger than the chrlew; its beak is
curved in a manner similar to that of the curlew, but
rather shorter, and much thicker in proportion, a little
flattened towards the base, and marlæd at each side
with a furrow which proceeding from the nostril to the
extremity, while in the curlew the corresponding
furrow is effaced before it, reaches midway down the
beak. The colon of this beak is more or less black. The
head and two-thirds of the beak are entirely destitute
of feathers, and the skin is black. The body feathers,
those of the wings and tail, are White, with the
exception of the ends of the large wing feathers, which
are black; the four last secondary feathers have
remarkably long beards, spread out, which fall upon
the ends of the wings when closed; their colour is a
brilliant black with a violet shade. The feet are black,
the legs thicker, and the toes evidently longer in
proportion than those of the curlew; the membranes
between the bases of the toes are also more extended;
the leg is wholly covered with small polygonal scales,
or what are called reticulated; and the back of the toes
even has only similar scales, whilst the curlew has
two-thirds of the legs and the whole of the toes,
scutulated, that is, furnished with transverse scales.
There is a reddish hue under the wing, towards the
commencement of the thigh, and on the covers of the
large anterior wing; but this tint appears to be an
individual characteristic, or the result of accident; for
it does not



appear in any other individuals otherwise precisely
This first individual came from the collection of the
stadtholder, and we do not know its native country.
The late M. Desmoulins, assistant naturalist at the
museum, who had seen two others, said that they came
from Senegal. One of them must have been brought by
M. Geoffroy de Villeneuve. But we shall presently find
that Bruce(1) found this species in Ethiopia, where it
is called Abou Hannés(Father John;) and that Savigny
saw it in abundance in Lower Egypt, where it is called
Abou Mengel(Father of the Sickle.) It is probable that
the moderns will not take the assertion of the ancients
literally, that the ibis never quitted its own country
without perishing. (2)
This assertion would besides be as contrary to the
tantalus ibis as to our curlew; for the individuals
which we have in Europe came from Senegal. It was
thence that M. Geoffroy de Villencuve brought that
now in the museum of natural history; it is even much
more rare in Egypt than our curlew, since no one after
Perrault mentions having seen it there, or received one
from thence.
An individual without the reddish hue, but
otherwise entirely similar to the first, was brought
home by M. de Labillardière, after his voyage in
Australasia with M. d'Entrecasteaux.
We have since learnt that this sort of numenius has,
when young, the head and neck furnished with feathers
on those parts which, as they advance in age, become
denuded, and that the scapularies are less expanded,
and of a paler and duller black. It is in

(1) Bruce, loc. cit.; and Savigny, Mem. stir l'Ibis, p. 12.
(2) Ælian, lib. 2, cap. xxxviii.



this state that the late M. Peron brought one from
Australasia, which did not differ from our own and
that of M. de Labillardière,except in some black lines
on the early feathers, and the first coverings of the
wings, and the head and top of the neck, were
ornamented with blackish plumage. A young individual
brought by M. Savigny from Egypt, and depicted in
the first plate in his Memoir of the Ibis, and in the
great work on Egypt "Birds," plate 7. The feathers of
the head and back of the neck are rather gray than
black, and those of the front of the neck are white.
Finally, Bruce's drawing, in his Atlas, plate 35, was
also made from a young individual seen in Abyssinia,
and nearly Similar to that of M. Savigny.
We have received from Pondicherry, by M.
Leschenault, an individual resembling that of Peru, of
which only the head, and a small part of the back of
the neck, are covered with white feathers; but it is not
less certain that all these birds have the head and neck
bare when they reach their full growth.
The late M. Macé sent from Bengal to the museum
many individuals of a species closely allied to this, of
which the beak is rather longer and less curved; the
first feather only has a little black on two sides of its
extremity, and the secondary fea thers are also rather
extended and lightly tinged with black.
According to M. Savigny (page 25 of his work) it
appears that M. le Vaillant has observed another,
which has also the secondary feathers extended, but
which always preserves its feathers, and whose face is
of a red colour.
The same M. Macé also sent a tantalus closely
resembling that which naturalists have regarded as the
ibis, but the small wing covering of which, and a



large hand below the breast, are black, speckled with
white. The lower secondary feathers, are lengthened,
and of a white colour. We know that in the tantalus
ibis of naturalists, the small wing coverings are
speckled with lilac, and that the under part of the body
is entirely white.
We add a table of the parts of some of these birds,
which have been able to measure accurately in stuffed
individuals. If we compare them with those of the
skeletons of the ibis mummies, we shall judge how
impossible it was for an instant to believe that these
were the mummies of the tantalus.



IMAGE Revolutions09.jpg



If we examine the books of the ancients and their
monuments, and compare what they have said
concerning the ibis, or the figures they have left of it,
with the bird we have just described, we shall find all
our difficulties vanish, and all testimonies agree with
the best of all, that is, the body of the bird it self
preserved in its mummy state.
Herodotus says (in his Euterpe, No. 76,) "the most
common ibises have the head and front of the neck
denuded, the plumage white, except on the head, on
the nape of the neck, the ends of the wings and the
rump, which are black. (1) Their beak and feet
resemble those of the other ibises," and he had said of
these "they are of the size of a crow, of an entirely
black colour, and have feet like those of the crane with
a crooked beak."
How does it occur that the travellers of modern days
do not give us descriptions of birds as accurate, as that
which Herodotus has made of the ibis?
How can this description be applied to a bird which
has only the face denuded, and of a red colour, to a
bird which has the rump white, and not covered as ours
by the black feathers of its wings?
And yet the last characteristic was essential to the
ibis. Plutarch says (de Iside et Osiride,) that The form
of a lunar crescent was to be found in the manner in
which the white was cut by the black in the plumage of
this bird. It was, in fact, by the union of the black of
these latter wing-feathers with that of the two
extremities of the wings, that there is formed in the
white a large semicircular indention which gives to the
white the appearance of a crescent.

(1) ψιλη την κεϕαλην, και την δειρην πασαν, λιυκη πτισo_
κιϕαλης, και αυχινoς και αχρων των πτερυγων, και πυ^
late Larcher, in his translation of Herodotus, v. ii. p. 327, has properly
defined the difference of these words αυχην, the nape, andδειρη or δερη
the throat.

IMAGE Revolutions10.jpg

It is now difficult to explain what he meant, by
saying that the feet of the ibis formed an equilateral
triangle with its beak. But we can understand the
assertion of Ælian, that when it draws back its head
and neck into its feathers, it has something of the
appearance of a heart. (1) It was thence, according to
Horus Apollo (c. 35,) made the emblem of the human
According to what Herodotus says of the nudity of
the throat, and of the feathers which covered the upper
part of the neck, he seems to have had in his eye an
individual of a middle age, but it is no less certain that
the Egyptians knew also very well those individuals
with the neck entirely denuded. We see such
represented from sculptures of bronze in the collection
of Egyptian antiquities of Caylus (vol. i. pl. 10, No. 4;
and vol. v. pl. 11, No. 1.) This latter figure so much
resembles the bird given in pl. 5, that we may think it
was taken from it.
The paintings of Herculaneum leave no species in
doubt. The paintings, No. 138 and 140, of David's
edition, and vol. ii. p. 315, No. 59, and p. 321 No 60,
of the original edition, which represent Egyptian
ceremonies, have many ibises walking in the courts of
the temples. They are exactly similar to the bird that
we have pointed out. We recognise particularly the
characteristic blackness of the head and neck, and we
easily see by the proportion of their figure with the
persons of the picture, that it must have been a bird of
half a metre at the most, and not a metre or nearly so,
as the tantalus ibis.
The mosaic of Palæstrina also presents in its middle
part many ibises perched on the buildings; and

(1) Ælian, lib. x. cap. xxix.



they differ in no respect from those of the paintings of
A sardonyx in the collection of Dr. Mead, copied by
Shaw, App pl. 5, and representing an ibis, seems to be
the miniature of the bird we have described.
A medal of Adrian in large bronze, represented in
the Farnesian Museum, vol. vi. pl. 28, fig. 6, and
another of the same emperor, in silver, represented in
vol. iii. pl. 6, fig. 9, give us figures of the ibis,
which, in spite of their smallness, are very similar to
our birds.
As to the figures of the ibis engraved on the plinth
of the statue of the Nile, at Belvedere,and on the copy
of it in the garden of the Tuileries, they are not
sufficiently finished to serve as proofs; but amongst
the hieroglyphics, of which the Institute of Egypt has
caused impressions to be taken on the spot, there are
many which decidedly represent our bird. We give one
of these impressions communicated by M. Geoffroy.
(Fig. 9.)
We particularly insist on this latter figure, because
it is the most fully authehticated of all; having been
made at the time and on the spotwhere the ibis was
worshipped, and being contemporaneous with its
mummies; whilst those we have above cited, done in
Italy, and by artists who did not profess the Egyptian
worship may not be so accurate.
We owe Bruce the justice of saying, that he detected
the bird which he has described under the name of
abouhannes, as the real ibis. He expressly says, that
this bird appeared to him to resemble that which the
mummy pitchers contained; he also says, that this
abouhannes, or Father John, is well known and
common on the banks of the Nile, whilst he never saw
there the bird represented by Buffon, under the name
of the white ibis of Egypt.



M. Savigny, one of the naturalists of the expedition to
Egypt, also assures us that he never discovered the
tantalus in this country;but he found many of our
numeniusnear the lake Menzale, in Lower Egypt, and
he brought their relics away with him.
The abouhanneshas been placed by M. Latham in
his Index Ornithologicus,under the name of tantalus
but he makes no mention of the conjecture
of Bruce on its identity with the ibis.
Travellers before and after Bruce appear to have all
been in error.
Belon thought that the white ibis was the stork,
thereby evidently contradicting all testimonies; and
none have been of his opinion except the apothecaries,
who took the stork for an emblem, confounding it with
the ibis to whom they attributed the invention of
Prosper Alpinus, who relates that this invention was
due to the ibis, gives no description of this bird in his
medicine of the Egyptians. (2) In his Natural History
of Egypt, he only speaks of it from Herodotus, to
whose words he only adds, doubtless after a passage of
Strabo, to which I shall recur presently, that this bird
resembles the stork in size and figure. He says, that he
was told that they were found in abundance, both white
and black, on the banks of the Nile; but it is evident
by his expressions, that he did not think they had been
seen. (3)
Shaw says of the ibis,(4) that it is now excessively
rare, and that he had never seen one. His

(1) Ælian, lib. ii., cap. xxxv. Phil. de Solest. An. Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. ii.
Phil. de Anirn. Prop. 16, etc.
(2) De Med. Egypt. lib. i. fol. v. i. Ed. Paris, 1646.
(3) Recherches Egypt. lib. iv., cap. i. vol. i. p 199, of the Leyden edit.
(4) See French translation, v. ii. p. 167.



emseesy, or ox-bird, which Gmelin very improperly
makes to correspond with the tantalus ibis, is the size
of the curlew, white bodied and with red beak and
feet. It is found in the fields near cattle; its flesh is
not well flavoured; and soon decays.(1) It is easy to
perceive that it is not the tantalus, and still less the
ibis of the ancients.
Hasselquist neither knew the white ibis, nor the
black ibis; his ardea ibisis a small heron with a
straight beak. Linnæus (tenth edition,) has correctly
placed it amongst the heron tribe; but he was in error,
as I have already remarked, in afterwards removing it
as synonymous with the tantalusgenus.
De Maillet (Descrip. de l'Egypte, part 2, p. 23,)
conjectures that the ibis may be a bird peculiar to
Egypt, and which is there called Pharaoh's fowl
(Chapon de Pharaoh,) and at Aleppo,Saphan-ba-cha.
It devours serpents. There are a black and white
species, and it follows for more than a hundred
leagues, the caravans going from Cairo to Mecca, to
feed on the carcases of the animals which are killed on
the journey, whilst at any other season not one of them
is to be seen on this route. But the author does not
consider this as certain; he even says that we must give
up the idea of understanding the ancients when they
speak so as to seem unwilling to be understood. He
concludes that the ancients have perhaps
indiscriminately comprised under the name of ibis, all
those birds which were serviceable to Egypt in clearing
it of the dangerous reptiles which the climate
abundantly produced; such as the vulture, falcon,
stork, sparrow, hawk, &c.
He was right in not considering his Pharaoh's fowl
as the ibis; for, though the description is very

(1) See Shaw's French translation, vol. i. p. 330.

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