A review of butterflies depicted in ancient Egyptian tomb scenes and other artifacts dating from the predynastic period (c. 3000 BCE) until the end of the pharaonic era (c. 100 BCE) reveals a wide spectrum of stylistic changes over time. A cladistic analysis shows relative consistency of style during the Old Kingdom period, copying of old styles during the Middle Kingdom period, and a deviation from tradition during the New Kingdom period. The utility of a cladistic approach in assigning dates and localities to ancient Egyptian artifacts with unknown origins is demonstrated. We discuss lepidopteran symbolism in ancient Egypt, and investigate how some of these depictions may highlight historical shifts in species ranges since pharaonic times.
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