Egyptian clay model of cattle

From el-Amra, Egypt, Predynastic, Naqada I period, around 3500 BC

This model of four cattle standing in a row is one of several found in graves at el-Amra.

The clay from which it is made was fired to only a low temperature and remains dull grey in colour. Modelling the animals was simplified by reducing the legs to single supports at front and back, with no attempt to distinguish right and left legs.

The black and white markings are typical of cattle throughout the historic period, and can be seen on similar models of the Middle Kingdom (about 2040-1750 BC). Comparable markings can be seen on cattle in agricultural scenes in the tomb decoration of the New Kingdom (about 1550-1070 BC), over 2000 years later. These cattle differ from their later descendants in having horns which turn downward and inward, rather than upward and outward.

This model, like those of the Middle Kingdom, was placed in a tomb, probably with the intention that food would be provided to the deceased for eternity in the Afterlife. Unlike later models, it is made of pottery rather than wood, as it was probably more readily available and perhaps easier to use.

Traces of linen on the surface of the object may indicate that it was placed in the grave under a cloth cover, or perhaps completely wrapped.

Models of houses were also included in burials, perhaps to give shelter to the spirit of the deceased. This tradition also continued into the historic period, when they were also used to house model offerings.


Conserving the painted model of cattle

Video

Preparation for display

Having been in the the British Museum collection since 1901, the cattle figurine was examined and conserved for display in 1993.

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Ancient Egypt

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Towards the end of the fourth millennium BC independent city-states unified to begin of over 3,000 years of pharaonic civilisation in the Nile Valley.

Ancient Egypt world culture

The Predynastic period


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Painted pottery group of cattle

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  • View from front

    View from front

  • From Egypt, Middle Kingdom, about 2040-1750 BC

    From Egypt, Middle Kingdom, about 2040-1750 BC

  • Branding iron

    Branding iron

 

More information

Bibliography

Dimensions

Height: 10 cm
Width: 30 cm
Depth: 15.300 cm

 

Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund

 

Museum number

EA 35506

YCA54676

Location

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Egyptian clay model of cattle

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Egyptian clay
model of cattle

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A History of the World in 100 objects

 
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This object features in A History of the World in 100 objects


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