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12 Awesome Vintage Anatomical Illustrations of Animals

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Get a look at what makes animals work with these gorgeous vintage anatomical illustrations.

1. Phormosoma indicum

These illustrations of a sea urchin appeared in the 1906 book Anatomie der Echinothuriden; the creature's outer layers appear to have been peeled away to reveal its inner workings. Volume 34 of Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoölogy at Harvard College notes that "the color of this species is rather variable, ranging from yellow to dark brown, lighter above than below, and often with a reddish tinge." This species, and several others, are now included under the umbrella of Phormosoma placenta.

2. Cat Brain

As you might guess from its title, the 1882 book Anatomical technology as applied to the domestic cat tells you more than you could ever possibly want to know about the inner workings of felines. But though it might have shown you what a cat's brain looked like, it still couldn't tell you what was going on inside of it.

3. Green Frog

This gorgeous engraving appeared in Rösel von Rosenhof's Historia naturalis ranarum nostratium, which was devoted entirely to frogs and was published between 1753 and 1758. There are many species of green frog; this one might be of the genus Pelophylax, which is comprised of 25 species from Europe and Asia.

4. Xylocopa violacea

Xylocopa violacea, or the violet carpenter bee, is one of the largest bees in Europe. The illustration on the left, which appeared in the 1896 edition of Faune de France, shows the insect's head and mouthparts.

5. Eledone moschata

It's hard to tell from this illustration, which appeared in the 1890 book Atlas d'anatomie comparée des invertébrés, that what you're looking at is actually an octopus—the musky octopus, to be exact. The mollusk lives in the Mediterranean Sea.

6. Bat

This spooky-but-beautiful drawing of a bat's skeleton comes from Eduard Alton and Christian Heinrich Pander's 1821 book Die vergleichende Osteologie.

7. Anglerfish

I can't find any information about where this illustration—which appears to show three different species of female anglerfish—first appeared, or who drew it, but you can buy it for your wall right here. There are more than 200 species of anglerfish; to mate, the males latch on to the females and eventually fuse onto their bodies, providing sperm whenever she's ready to spawn.

8. Limulus polyphemus

You know Limulus polyphemus as an Atlantic horseshoe crab, but it's actually more closely related to arachnids than to crustaceans; the creatures, which have blue blood, are also captured and bled for biomedical purposes. This illustration is also from Atlas d'anatomie comparée des invertébrés; according to a translation of the text, Figure 2 shows a "Limulus whose dorsal integument have [been] removed to expose the heart and main arterial trunks dorsal."

9. Salamander

This flayed salamander appeared in the 1802 book Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, des reptiles.

11. Horse Head

Much better than waking up to find a horse head in your bed is to examine this illustration, drawn by medical illustrator Hermann Dittrich, which details the musculature, bones, and ear mechanics of an equine. It appeared in Handbuch der Anatomie der Tiere für Künstler, which was published in 1898 and 1911 through 1925.

12. Turtle

This scary turtle illustration—which appears to show the animal's musculature, in addition to an empty shell—comes from the 1819 book Anatome testudinis Europaeae.

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b


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