Earliest Known Representations of the Set-animal

"The Seth-animal has been connected with the ass, oryx antelope, greyhound, fennec, jerboa, camel, okapi, long-snouted mouse, aardvark or orycteropus, giraffe and a kind of hog or boar. A. S. Jensen 2) drew attention to the fact that it has also been regarded as a hare, jackal, tapir, long-snouted mormyr of the Nile or the nh bird of the Egyptians." _Seth, God of Confusion_, TeVelde, page 13

Predynastic images are often very hard for us to identify as representing Set. Possibly, it took a while for the ancients to come up with the standard Set look that we know and love. And there is a classic canine body in most of the Dynastic imagery.

Furthermore, Ken Moss advances the idea that the Saluki is the prototype for the Set animal in the August/September 2009 issue of _Ancient Egypt_. "These oldest representations of the Seth-animal are clearly of a dog, but with two unique features: an erect tail and erect squared-off ears. The body of the Seth-animal has in fact always been that of a canine, with paws, and even the head was dog-like in the beginning. It was only over time that the head became exaggerated with a long, narrow, down-turned snout." (Page 43)

Meanwhile, back to the huge number of associations that have on occasion been associated with Set. The antelope is among them, and this comb fragment from Naqada I looks quite a bit like the illustrations given in TeVelde's book:

Bone Comb with an Antelope
Naqada I -early Naqada II (ca. 3900-3500 B.c.)
Metropolitan Museum, Rogers Fund, 1923, MMA 23.2.8

This comb at the Ashmolean (courtesy Jon Bodsworth's now defunct "egyptarchive.co.uk")looks exactly like one in TeVelde's illustration:

However, only example 'B' looks anything like the traditional Set animal with the long snout and tall ears.

Here are some more early examples for us to consider:

These are labels from a tomb at Abydos of King Scorpion, a predynastic ruler around 3200BCE

Several years ago, I thought they might possibly represent Set, because of the sedge hieroglyph in the one label:

"He prevented their quarrelling. He appointed Seth as king in the sedge country in the place where he was born in and Geb appointed Horus as king in the land of papyrus" (_Seth, God of Confusion_, page 61)

However, as of 2016, I'm a bit more cautious. Those two "tail down" canines are looking more like Wepwawet to me now. Furthermore, Wepwawet IS associated with Upper Egypt. Archaeological evidence shows that worship of Wepwawet probably originated in Upper Egypt. (See Wilkinson, Complete Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, page 191) Also, "Wepwawet was the local deity of the thirteenth nome of Upper Egypt, modern Asyut."(_The Ancient Gods Speak_, edited by Donald B. Redford, (Oxford University Press 2002), page 381)

So as of 2016, I'm going to say, "Nope, King Scorpion's labels feature Wepwawet!"

Also, I found the source of one definite image of Set that's been floating the web:

It is at http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/ar/96-97/desert_road.html.

The author says of the Theban Desert road area called Gebel Tjauti:
"Nearby is a protodynastic depiction of the strange animal of the god Seth (fig. 11), the earliest certain depiction of this beast from the vicinity of Seth's cult center at Ombos."

Having found one intriguing reference to Set in the Pyramid texts, I googled for more, and came to a few mentions in Toby A. H. Wilkinson's _Early Dynastic Egypt_:

"The Seth-animal may also be depicted, together with sheep, on a First Dynasty pottery vessel (Habachi 1939: 770; te Velde 1967:15). Seth is named on a private stela from a subsidiary grave surrounding the tomb of Djer at Abydos (Petrie 1901; pl. XXVII.96); whilst a First Dynasty travertine bowl purchased in Qena bears a crudely incised inscription mentioning a festival of Seth (Fitzwilliam Museum E.3.1901). (pages 294-295)

I took that accession number to the museum and found the item mentioned:

Larger view, whole, larger view, detail

Another protodynastic Set image is found on the 'Scorpion King' Mace head. Wikipedia explains:

"Scorpion, also King Scorpion or Scorpion II refers to the second of two kings so-named of Upper Egypt during the Protodynastic Period.The only pictorial evidence of his existence is the so-called Scorpion Macehead that was found in the Main deposit by archeologists James E. Quibell and Frederick W. Green in a temple at Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) during the dig season of 1897/1898.[1] It is currently on display at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The stratigraphy of this macehead was lost due to the methods of its excavators, but its style seems to date it to the very end of the Predynastic Period."

Quibell's book on the Hierakonpolis finds is available at Etana.org. The scan of his photo isn't so clear:

J. E. Quibell, Hieraconpolis I, London, 1900, pl. XXVI C

Egyptarchive.co.uk/ (Photographer Jon Bodsworth) had a photo of the mace, restored to its original shape.

Hermann TeVelde shows the detail of this votive mace-head "on which undoubtedly Seth-animals with their truncated ears and raised tails are represented.3)" (From _Seth, God of Confusion_, page 12)

Detail of ‘Scorpion King’ Mace head, Ashmolean Museum, # AN1896-1908.E3632,
Pink limestone statuette, Naqada IIc (ca. 3450 BCE), Naqada, grave 721, from Petrie's excavations, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, #AN 1895.138
Macehead detail traced from photo by Francis Lankester, statuette traced from photos I took.

"Rear" view under this link

The statuette of the Set animal is not quite as old as the macehead. It once had its ears and tail attached, and only the holes for them give evidence of their prior existence.