Richard Nowitz

Loculi in the Maresha tomb. Above the loculi appears a painted frieze of wild and mythological animals. Many of the animals are native to the Levant and Africa and may represent creatures collected in the royal zoo of the Ptolemies in Alexandria, Egypt. According to historical sources, the zoo held lions, leopards, crocodiles, an onager, bulls, snakes, a giraffe, a rhinoceros and birds—all of which appear on the tomb walls. The paintings suggest that the Maresha artist had never seen many of the animals and was working from a book of illustrations: As shown above, a porcupine (above the central niche) appears the same size as the rhinoceros it faces; and scattered among the more lifelike animals appear several fantastic hybrids, including a lion with a man’s face (far left).