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Ancient Egypt is famous for its plethora of gods and goddesses, many of whom have the head of an animal.

egyptian gods
image source

I'm looking for a real-life inspiration for the physical shape of these gods that might have existed during the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt. This is a time at the transition from the Neolithig (late Stone Age) to the Copper Age, when the Egyptian culture and society became more refined. The bodies of these gods are obviously human up to the neck, so let's assume that the inspiration was an actual human being. Let's further assume that plastic surgery to the extend of making a human head look like an animal was impossible at the target time. Less invasive procedures that a human could survive without antibiotics are allowed.

I'm not interested in:

  • Any godly powers, shape shifting, immortality or other aspects of beings we would call god-like or omnipowered.
  • Ancient aliens or magic as an explanation
  • Any gods / goddesses with a human head, even if the color of skin seems unnatural
  • Any headdresses that are obviously accessoires (like the disks of Tefnut or Khonsu in the provided image).

Is there a mutation, medical condition or medical procedure that would make the head of a human resemble the head of an animal while keeping the rest of the body relatively unchanged? Bonus points if the cause for the physical appearance does not inhibit the mental development or intelligence of the human (after all, a godly being must be wise). Keep the time frame in mind: Early Egyptian Dynastic Period (ca. 3000 BC) or earlier.

The focus of this question is to find one deformed human resembling any animal as proto-god that could then initiate the creation of the whole pantheon in the following development of society and culture.

This is my contribution to the Anatomically Correct series.

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    $\begingroup$ So you're not looking for evolutionary pressures over time, but for a disease/disorder in an individual? Some form of Joseph Merrick's disease would be my best guess. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jun 8 '20 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ Did the Egyptian invent botox? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Jun 8 '20 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ @user6760 Botox is produced by the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum. I highly doubt ancient egyptians knew how to can food or otherwise preserve food in an anaerobic environment. So no, they did not invent botox. $\endgroup$ – Elmy Jun 8 '20 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ I suggest browsing the Mutter Museum website for inspiration. For example, here's a real life human horn: memento.muttermuseum.org/detail/human-horn $\endgroup$ – Andrew Brēza Jun 8 '20 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ Are you looking for any one of these gods, some of them, or an explanation that could conceivably cover each and every one? $\endgroup$ – user151841 Jun 8 '20 at 19:42
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Artificial cranial deformation.

Pre Columbian cultures used binding with planks to mold the newborn babies skulls. They would grow up like so.
like so.

The brain adapts and they served as high priests. Add some coloring, earrings and you got many "inhuman" looking "gods".

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When I was a child with my family we went to visit a museum in a nearby city.

Among the various items being exposed in their venue, they had an fetal pathology section where they kept a collection of various formaldehyde preserved dead borne babies with anatomical anomalies.

Of the various samples I saw (yes, a kid could see it) I remember there was a hammer head one, whose profile looked like a hammer.

For sure there are pathological situations leading to a deformed cranium or other abnormal physical features which can resemble some other animals, but I doubt most of them could lead to a live born, let alone a normally functioning brain.

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  • $\begingroup$ There was a frog-headed stillborn in Brazil in the 90's. Back then videogames weren't so accessible so the hysterical media just blamed TV for it (regular media kept trying to explain teratology but people wouldn't get it). $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Jun 8 '20 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ I'm guessing you visited the Mutter Museum: muttermuseum.org $\endgroup$ – Andrew Brēza Jun 8 '20 at 13:07
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I'm going to be that guy and say, "No."

There are various deformities and conditions that will make a person look different from other people, but nothing that gives someone, say, a beetle-shaped head.

There is a very rare condition called Hypertrichosis, or werewolf syndrome that can make someone's face very hairy, but it won't give them a cat's ears, cat's nose, whiskers, etc. enter image description here

A person could go through extensive plastic surgeries and body modifications to perhaps look somewhat closer to some of these gods-- see The Lizard Man or Stalking Cat-- but ancient Egyptians would not have the technology or knowledge to perform these surgeries.

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Assuming that actual deformities can't get us where we want to be (although I guess maybe JUST the right combination of treeman syndrome to form something beak-like and/or the werewolf syndrome as mentioned in user151841's answer might get us close-ish), here's an alternative source of inspiration:

People wearing furs/masks, with priests and guardians preventing sceptics from coming close enough to tell the difference.

Anubis?

Anubis?

Thoth?

Thoth?

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