Bronze bowl

From the Meroitic cemetery at Faras, Sudan
1st-3rd century AD

Decorated with rearing cobra and ankh motifs

This bowl was made from a metal sheet, beaten into shape over a mould or rod-anvil. Bronze and copper become very brittle when beaten. To keep the metal supple it was heated it in a furnace while it was worked. The cobra and ankh decorations were added once the vessel had been shaped, using a chisel and hammer-stone.

Amulets were often used for decoration. The rearing cobra represented the eye of Re, a force that the god sent to destroy his enemies. As the uraeus it was placed on the brow of the king to protect him and show his divine status. It was also placed on the head-dresses of the gods to indicate their divinity. The motif was used on furniture and other objects as both a decorative and a protective feature.

The ankh, representing 'life', is possibly a schematic drawing of a sandal strap. The ankh is often presented to the king by the gods in temple scenes. It was used as a motif in friezes and on furniture and vessels. The ankh amulet was also placed among the bandages of mummies, but was rarely worn by the living.

Find in the collection online

More information


J.H. Taylor, Egypt and Nubia (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

M. Stead, Egyptian life (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)


Height: 9.500 cm
Diameter: 14.900 cm

Museum number

EA 51462


Gift of Oxford University


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore