National Geographic : 1941 Oct
Netting Wildfowl in the Marshes FOWLING with the ancient Egyptians was both a sport and a means of livelihood, entered into with equal zest by the rich man out for a few hours' amusement, by the peasant in search of a succulent meal, and by the professional fowler, whose whole time was devoted to supplying the larders and stocking the poultry yards of his employers or clients. Small land birds were caught in little spring traps of ingenious design; but the chief victims of this combined pastime and business were the wild goose, the pintail duck, and the widgeon, which during the migratory seasons swarmed over the pools and waterways of Egypt in apparently count less thousands. Of the several devices used for catching these birds alive one of the most common and certainly the most spectacular was the large "clap-net" of the type shown in our painting. It appears to have been operated somewhat on this order: A small pool, known to be frequented by wildfowl, having been selected and baited, the two halves of the net were spread out flat on either side of it, their inner edges "hinged" on staked cords, their outer edges provided with securely anchored draw-ropes, as shown. The five fowlers manning the draw-rope squatted low in the tall grass of the marsh, leaving only the look-out, his cranium camouflaged by a cap shaped toresemble aduck's head, peering over the top ofhis blind. When enough birds had alighted on the pool to satisfy thewatcher that agood catch would be made, this man sprang upsuddenly, throw ing his arms wide and spreading hiswhite sash across the back of his shoulders. His companions, taking the signal, straightened upand, with a mighty heave which landed them allontheir backs, swung the wings of the net up, over, and down onthealready rising birds, flattening themagainst thesurface ofthepool and snaring many in the meshes ofthetrap. At this point the small boys, waiting inthebackground with the empty crates, went into action and captured adozen or so live ducks for the roasting spit orthepoultry farm. The clap-net is frequently represented intomb reliefs and paintings, especially thoseofthe Old Kingdom. Because of the often puzzling conventions ofdrawing used bythe Egyptian artists, the exact form and theexact method of manipulation of the net haspresented something ofaprob lem to the modern student.The reconstruction shown is one of the several acceptedones. Itis,however, notun likely that the netting extended, intriangles below thedraw ropes, beyond the limits of the rectangular frames.