The fish-like scales and heavy armour of the giant creature give it a formidable appearance worthy of the most fertile imagination. Yet this is no beast from mythology. This is a depiction of a rhinoceros as imagined by Albrecht Duerer, a 16th-century German artist. His coloured woodcut, part of the Manarat Al Saadiyat exhibition Treasures of the World\'s Cultures, gives its viewers a glimpse of a famous, influential piece of art and an insight into the European mindset of the era. \"This particular piece captures the intellectual atmosphere of the 1500s when there was this desire to go out in the world, record and classify everything in nature,\" said Brendan Moore, the curator of the exhibition. \"There is a subtle thread throughout the exhibition,\" he said, \"that follows the deep-rooted and complicated relationship of humans to nature and the creatures in their environment.\" Duerer\'s woodcut, an instant sensation that has remained a source of fascination, is one of more than 250 objects on display at the Saadiyat exhibition, which chronicles two millennia of human ingenuity and civilisation. Many of the 250 objects relate to animals. Some were the subject of carvings, paintings and drawings, others were depicted on coins. Some were worshipped and others were sacrificed to be buried with their masters. The treasures in the ancient Egypt collection, from a civilisation that emerged about 5,000 years ago, give an insight into the role beasts, birds, and even insects played in daily life and the afterlife. A heart-shaped scarab, or beetle, would be placed on the chest of the deceased to ensure the heart could not speak out against its owner during the judgment of the dead. The heads of creatures also feature on four Canopic jars dated to 1069-945 BC and belonging to Neskhons, wife of Pinedjem II, the high priest of Amun. The jars were designed to store the organs of the deceased, which needed to be removed so the body could dry for embalming. The liver, lungs, stomach and intestines would be placed under the protection of the gods Imsety, Hapy, Qebhsenuef and Duamutef - the Sons of Horus - represented by the heads of a falcon, jackal, baboon and a man on each of the jars. The heart, believed to be the body\'s seat of understanding, was left in place. Cats were of particular significance. \"It is hard to say why a certain creature was singled out and worshipped, but for some reason the old world loved cats and so does the world today,\" said Mr Moore. How much they were revered is plain to see in a number of artifacts. A bronze seated cat figure from 664-305 BC is thought to have been left at a temple by a pilgrim as an offering to the goddess Bastet. Cats were sacred to Bastet, and those who bore gifts of cat-shaped artefacts, jewellery and amulets were said to be rewarded with fertility. There is also a 146-centimetre tall, 1350 BC granodiorite statue of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet who, a myth tells, was the fiery eye of the sun god Ra, sent against his enemies. Elsewhere, an item from the UAE illustrates the region\'s long-standing reverence for horses and camels. The golden bridle discs worn by a horse buried with its master in Sharjah 2,000 years ago indicate the high standing of its owner, who was also buried with a camel. Other horses and camels were found in mass graves in area of Mleiha, Sharjah. \"When an animal was sacrificed, it meant it was important and of high status,\" said Manal Ataya, the director general of Sharjah Museums. \"It is fascinating to see how certain animals and birds have come up in different civilisations and cultures, and ended up being adopted as similar symbols and meaning the same thing to the people of that particular time,\" said Ms Ataya. \"… they felt the same connection to that animal or bird, probably due to the use and benefit of that creature of their lives.\" With most of the world\'s people now living in cities, man\'s connection with nature is weaker, she said. In the past, \"there was a kind of loyalty to the animals - a close bond and love, that when someone died, they wanted that animal to be with them in the afterlife to guide them to the right path\", said Ms Ataya. As for Duerer\'s rhinoceros, it preceded its master to the afterlife. Months after the German artist made his woodcut, King Manuel I of Portugal sent the rhino as a gift to Pope Leo X in Rome. Near the end of the journey across the Mediterranean, the ship sank and the animal drowned. The exhibition is open daily from 10am to 8pm until July 17 at Manarat Al Saadiyat. A lecture on \"Sacred Creations: Faith and Religion in Human History\'\" by Manal Ataya is to take place at 6.30pm on May 16.