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Painted wooden figure of a crouching baboon

 

Height: 39.000 cm
Width: 19.000 cm
Depth: 23.000 cm

EA 20869

Ancient Egypt and Sudan

    Painted wooden figure of a crouching baboon

    From Akhmin, Egypt
    Roman Period, 1st-4th century AD

    Dedicated to Thoth

    The baboon was associated with several deities, in particular Thoth, and also the Son of Horus named Hapy. Baboons were also thought to herald the emergence of the sun from the Underworld at dawn. These animals are usually shown crouching on their haunches, with both paws resting on their knees, as if about to howl at the sun.

    The association between the baboon and Thoth is indicated in this statue in two ways. The peg on the head of the figure would have originally held a moon disc, indicating that Thoth is a lunar deity. Around the neck of the baboon is a wedjat eye, suspended on a bead necklace. It represents both the eye of Horus which Thoth restored, and the eye of Re which he brought back from Nubia. This reflects another aspect of Thoth as a messenger or intermediary.

    Thoth, as god of writing and wisdom, became very popular in the Late Period. At this time people showed their devotion to the god by dedicating sacred baboons and ibises to him. The sacred animals were mummified and placed within catacombs containing thousands of animal bodies. Patrons could also dedicate a statuette of bronze or wood, such as this one, in one of the shrines attached to the animal cemeteries.

    S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

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