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imperfect, and Buffon believed that he detected the
ibis in it, it is easily seen, as well as by what Pococke
says of it, that this bird must have been carnivorous;
and, in fact, we see by the figure given by Bruce (vol.
v., p. 191, of the French edition,) that Pharaoh's fowl
was only the rachama, or small white vulture, with
black wings (vultur percnopterusof Linnæus) a bird
very different from that which we have above proved
to be the ibis.
Pocoke says, that it appears by the descriptions
given of the ibis, and by the figures which he had seen
of it in the temples of Upper Egypt, that it was a
species of crane. I have seen, he adds, a quantity of
these birds in the islands of the Nile: they were for the
most part of a grayish colour (French translation, ed.
12mo. vol. ii., p. 153.) These few words are enough to
prove that he did not know the ibis better than the
The learned have not been more fortunate in their
conectures than the travellers. Middleton compares
with the ibis, a bronze figure of a bird with a short
curved beak, the neck very long, and the head
ornamented with a small crest, a figure which never
had any similarity to the bird of the Egyptians (Antiq.
Mon. pl. 10, p. 129.) This figure, besides, is not at all
in the Egyptian style, and Middleton himself agrees
that it must have been made at Rome. Saumaise, on
Solinus, says nothing which relates to the real
As to the black ibis, which Aristotle places near
Pelusium only,(1) it was long thought that Belon alone
had seen it. (2) The bird described by him under this
name is a species of curlew, to which he

(1) Hist. Anim. lib. ix. cap. xxvii. and lib. x. cap. xxx.
(2) Buffon's Hist. Natur. des Giseaux, in 4to. vol. viii., p. 17.



attributes a head similar to that of the cormorant,
that is to say, apparently bald, with red beak and
feet;(1) but as he makes no mention of the ibis in his
journey,(2) I suspect that it was only in France that he
made this relation of the two, and by comparison with
the ibis mummies. It is certain that the curlew with red
beak and feet was unknown in Egypt,(3) but that the
green curlew of Europe (Scolopax falcinellusof
Linnæus is commonly seen there, and is even more
plentiful than the white numenius;(4) and as it
resembles it in form and size, and that at a distance its
plumage may appear black, we can hardly doubt but
that this was the real black ibis of the ancients. M.
Savigny had a painting made of it in Egypt,(5) but
only from a young individual. The figure of Buffon is
from a full-grown bird, but the colours are too bright.
The mistake which at present prevails respecting the
ibis, originated with Perrault, who was the first
naturalist who made known the tantalus ibis of the
present day. This error, adopted by Brisson and
Buffon, has passed into the twelfth edition of Linnæus,
where it is mixed with that of Hasselquist, which had
been inserted in the tenth, forming together a most
monstrous compound.
It was founded upon the idea that the ibis was
essentially a bird inimical to serpents, and in this very
natural conclusion, that a sharp beak was necessary to
devour serpents, and more or less analogous to that of
the stork or heron. This idea is

(1) Belon. Nat. des Qiseaux, pp. 199 and 200; and Portraits d'Oiseaux,
fol. v. 44.
(2) Observations de plusieurs singularités, &c.
(3) Savigny, Mem. sur l'Ibis, p. 37.
(4) Idem ibid.
(5) See the great work on Egypt. list. Nat. des Oiseaux, pl. 7, fig. 2.



even the only good objection that can be adduced
against the identity of our bird with the ibis. How, it
is asked, could a curlew, a bird with a weak beak,
devour these dangerous reptiles?
Our answer is, that positive proofs, such as
descriptions, figures, and mummies, should always
claim more belief than accounts of peculiar habits, too
often devised without any other motive than to justify
the various worships paid to animals. We might add,
that the serpents from which the ibises freed Egypt are
represented as very numerous, but not as very large. I
believe, too, that I have as certained decidedly that the
bird mummies, which had a beak precisely similar to
that of our bird, were real serpent-eaters; for I found
in one of their mummies the undigested remains of the
skin and' scales of serpents, which I have preserved in
our anatomical galleries.
But, at the present time, M. Savigny, who has
observed whilst living, and even more than once
dissected our white numenius, the bird which every
thing proves to have been the ibis, asserts that it only
eats worms, fresh water shell-fish, and other similar
small animals. Supposing that there is no exception to
this, all we can conclude is, that the Egyptians, as has
before occurred to them and others, gave a false reason
for an absurd worship. It is true, that Herodotus said,
that he saw in a place on the borders of the desert,(1)
near Buto, a narrow defile, in which an infinite
quantity of bones and remains, which he was told were
the relics of winged serpents, which sought to
penetrate into Egypt at

(1) Euterpe, cap. lxxv. Herodotus says, a place in
arabia; but we cannot see how a place in Arabia could
be near the city of Buto, which was in the western part
of Delta.



the beginning of spring, and that the ibis stopped their
progress; but he does not say that he witnessed their
combats, nor that he had seen these winged serpents in
a perfect state. The whole of his testis mony consists
then in having observed a mass of bones, which might
have been those of this multitude of reptiles and other
animals which the inundation destroyed every year,
and whose carcases it would naturally convey to the
points where it stopped, to the borders of the desert,
and which would accumulate more abundantly in a
narrow defile.
Yet it is in consequence of this idea of the combat
of the ibis with the serpents, that Cicero gives a hard
and horny beak to this bird.(1) Having never been in
Egypt, he figured to himself that it must be so by
I am aware that Strabo says, that some part of the
ibis resembles the stork in shape and height,(2) and
that this author ought to have known this well, since
he assures us that in his time the streets and cross ways
of Alexandria were so filled with them, that they were
a serious inconvenience; but he spoke from memory.
His testimony cannot be received when he contradicts
all others, and particularly when the bird itself is there
to disprove it.
In like manner 1 shall not concern myself about a
passage of Ælian,(3) who states (like the Egyptian
embalmers) that the intestines of the ibis were ninety-
six cubits in length. The Egyptian priests of all classes
have given such extravagant descriptions

(1) Avis excelsa, cruribus rigidis, corneo proceroque rostro. ic. de Nat.
Deor. lib. i.
(2) Strab. lib. xvii.
(3) Ælian, Anim. lib. z. cap. 29.



of natural history, that we cannot make of much
consequence whatever one of the lower order might
Another objection may be made against me, drawn
from the long extending and black feathers which
cover the rump of our bird, and of which we detect
some traces in the abouhannesof Bruce.
The ancients, it may be said, say nothing of it in
their descriptions, arid their figures of it do not
represent them. But I have, to back my assertion, more
than a written testimony or a traced image. I have
found precisely similar feathers in one of the mummies
of Saccara; I preserve them most carefully, as being at
once a singular monument of antiquity, and a proof
undeniable of the identity of the species. These
feathers having an uncommon form, not being found, I
believe, in any other curlew, leave, in fact, no doubt
of the accuracy of my opinion.
I conclude this memoir by a recapitulation of its
1st. The tantalus ibis of Linnæus should form a
genus distinct from the tantalus loculator. Their
character will be rostrum læve, validum, arcuatum,
apice utrinque emarginatum.
2nd. The other tantali of the latter editions should
form a genus with the common curlews, and may be
called the numenius. Their characters will be rostrum
, gracile, arcuatum, apice mutico, for the special
character of the sub-genus of the ibises we must add,
sulco laterali per totum longitudinem exarato.
The white ibis of the ancients is not the ibis of
Perrault and Buffon, which is a tantalus; nor the ibis
of Hasselquist, which is an ardea; nor the ibis of
Maillet, which is a vulture; but a bird of the



genus numenius, or curlew, of the sub-genus ibis,
which has only hitherto been described by Bruce under
the name of abouhannes. I name it NUMENIUS IBIS,
albus, capite et collo adulti nudis, remigium apicibus,
rostro et pedibus nigris, remigibus secundariis
elongatis nigro violaceis
4th. The black ibis of the ancients is probably the
bird known in Europe under the name of green curlew,
or the scolopax falcinellusof Linnæus; it also belongs
to the genus of curlews and to the sub-genus of ibises.
5th. The tantalus ibis of Linnæus, in the real state
of synonomy, includes four species of these different
genera, viz.
1. A tantalus, the ibis of Perrault and Buffon.
2. An ardea, the ibis of Hasselquist.
3. and 4. Two numenii, the ibis of Belon and the
ox-bird of Shaw.
We may judge by this example, and by many others,
of the state in which this worst Systema Naturæstill
remains, which it would be so important to cleanse
gradually of the errors which throng it, and with which
it appears continually to be loaded, by adding
characters and synonyms and species, without just
selection or competent judgment.
The general conclusion of my labour is, that the ibis
still exists in Egypt as it did in the time of the
Pharoahs, and that it is to the error of naturalists we
are indebted for the belief so long prevalent, that the
real species was lost or altered in its form.





Acrondum. The upper process of the scapula, or shoulder blade.
Alluvium. Beds of transported matter, constantly deposited by torrents and
rivers, and which contain only bones of animals that still live in the
Aluminous. The technical name of pure clayey earth.
Alveolæ.The sockets in the jaws in which the teeth are set.
Ammonites,or snake stone, a fossil, univalved, many-chambered shell; of a
flattened, spiral figure, containing many circumlocutions, which decrease
in bulk gradually to the centre. From its resemblance to a ram's horn, or
that with which the figure of Jupiter Ammon is drawn, it is called
Cornua Ammonis.
Apophysis.The prominence or jutting out of a bone.
Arabesques,or Moresques; a style of painting or sculpture, so called from
the Arabs and Moors, who were precluded by their laws and religion,
from painting animals.
Arundinaceæ. Fossils composed of fragments of the bark of trees placed on
each other.
Articulation(in anatomy.) The juncture or connexion of two bones.
Basalt. A mineral considered as produced by fire, and found in great
quantities in volcanic districts. Its colour is a darkish gray, and it forms
some of the most singular rocks in nature, as the Giants' Causeway,
Fingal's Cave, &c.
Belemnites,or thunder stone, is a fossil, so called from a Greek word,
signifying an arrow, because of its resemblance to an arrow4iead. Its
shape is intermediate between a long cylinder and an acute angled cone;
the colour is usually a brownish yellow, with a transparency like
Bituminous.Any thing partaking of the nature of pitch, or inflammable
called also conglomerate, or masses of various pieces of stone, &c.
of different kinds and species.
Calcareous,partaking of the nature of caix, or lime.
Caries.Rottenness or putridity.



Carnivorous. Flesh-devouring.
Cataclysm.A Greek word signifying deluge.
Cetacea.The seventh order of mammalia, according to Linnæus, including
the four species, narvals, whales, cachalots and dolphins.
Clavicle. One of the bones of the shoulder.
Colures,are two great circles which intersect each other at right angles in the
poles of the world, dividing the ecliptic into four equal parts, denoting
the four seasons of the year; the one passing throughAries and Libra, is
theequinoctial colure; and the other passing through Cancer and
Capricorn, the solstitial colure.
in geology, is the assemblage of small particles into a solid mass.
Crustacea. Aquatic shell-fish.
Diluvium.Deposites of mud and clayey sands, transported from distant
countries and filled with fossil remains of land animals, for the most part
unknown, or at least foreign to the country
Didelphides, in zoology, a genus of mammalia, the opossums of our English
Echidna.A species of serpent stone.
Encrirites.A kind of columnar fossil, called also stone-lily: when found
perfect, which is not common, the upper part resembles a closed lily
with its stalk. In each of its ten arms are sixty bones, and in the fingers
are eighteen hundred. In the small claws the number of bones is twenty-
four thousand, and the whole number of bones in one of these wonderful
animals is 26,680, though the animals themselves seem scarcely so large
as a man's hand.
Entrochites.The fossilized remains of some marine animals of the echinæ, or
stone-fish kind. They are cylindrically shaped, and about an inch long.
Epiphysis.A name given to certain parts of bones, at a particular period of
their formation.
Felspar. A mineral of various colours, white, gray, reddish, and yellowish. It
enters into the composition of granite, and has a foliated appearance.
Ferruginous.Any thing partaking of iron, or containing particles of that
Fibula. The outer and smaller bone of the leg.
Gneiss.A species of rock, differing from granite chiefly in being of a slaty
structure, in consequence of its containing a greater proportion of mica,
and less quartz and felspar, which two last are usually in small grains,
and not so distinct as in granite.
Granite.A species of rock, consisting of three substances, mica,



quartz, and felspar, and sometimes other minerals. The mica is in the
form of soft, elastic scales, and in some sorts of granites is black, and in
others yellowish. The quartz is white, red, brown, or yellowish, and
even colourless and transparent, and may be known by the glass-like
surface of the broken pieces; while the felspar is more splintery, and for
the most part in pieces of a longish shape.
Gryphæa. A species of fossil bivalve shell.
Gypsum,or plaster of Paris, is the sulphate of lime, being composed of lime
and sulphuric acid; and much used in the formation of cements, casts,
Heliacal rising and setting of a star is, properly, when it rises or sets with
the sun; or a star is said to rise heliacally, when it is first seen after a
conjunction with the sun: and to set heliacally, when it is so near the sun
as to be hidden by its beams.
Herbivorous. Herb-devouring.
Homogenous,is a term applied to various subjects, to denote that they
consist of similar parts, or of parts of the same nature and kind.
Hornblende. A species of rock, usually of a dark bottle-green colour: it is
more shining and glossy than felspar, and heavier, but not so hard.
Lava.The matter ejected by volcanos.
Lignites.The inflammable material called brown coal.
Limestone.The carbonate of lime, being composed of lime and carbonic acid.
There are many species, including chalk and marble.
Lithophytes.The fourth order of vermes or worms. They produce the coral,
and in this order are fifty-nine species, under the four genera of
tubipora, madrepora, millepora,andtullipora.
The powerful muscle of the under jaw.
Mica,vide Granite.
The second order of vermes, including animals that are naked, and
furnished with tentacula, or arms.
Monads. A genus of insects of the order infusoria. The generic character is a
worm invisible to the naked eye, simple, pellucid, and resembling a
point. The genus includes five species.
Monitor.A large species of lizard.
Monocotyledonous. The term of one of the then great trees, into which the
whole vegetable kingdom is divided, and signifying one stem or seminal
Myocus. The dormouse.
Œsohagus.The membranous and muscular tube that conveys food from the
throat to the stomach.



Oolite. The Bath stone or freestone, which may be cut with a saw.
Pantheism.A doctrine which confounds God with the universe, representing
them as one and the same being, and admitting only one substance,
whence all things proceed, and into which they all return. The tenets of
Petrifaction. An animal or vegetable, or their parts, changed into a fossil
Planisphere. A projection of the sphere and the circles thereof on a plane, as
on paper, &c.
Porphyry.A rock so called from its purple colour: but geologists term all
rocks porphyry, where crystals are scattered through a mass of other
compacted matter.
Pyrites.The name given to certain ores which contain a large quantity of
sulphur, and have a metallic lustre.
Quartz.A substance very generally diffused throughout the mineral
kingdom. Videgranite.
Scapula.The shoulder blade.
Schist.From a German word for slate.
The external, dense and firm membrane of the globe of the eye.
Stalactite.Carbonate of stalactic; limestone formed by the dripping of the
water in a cavern, containing a superabundance of carbonic acid. The
limestone is dissolved, but precipitately, when the acid is disengaged, it
forms stalactite. The celebrated grotto of Antiparos is remarkable for the
fantastic and beautiful form of its stalactites.
Synchronism.The occurrence of several events at the same time.
Terebratulæ A species of arch shell, with a small hole in it, apparently bored
by art.
Testacea. Fish covered with a strong shell, as oysters, &c. Tibia. The
Tufa.A stone formed by the depositions of springs and rivulets, containing
much earthy matter; also, by the concretions of volcanic cinders, &c.
cemented by water.
Travertine. A peculiar substance formed of petrified reeds, straws, &c.
Vermiculate.Resembling worms.
That produces its young alive, in opposition to oviparous.
Zoophytes.A kind of intermediate body, supposed to partake of the nature
of animal and vegetable.
Zygoma.The bony arch of the head, under which the temporal muscle

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