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Trial piece with a birth scene


Length: 18.000 cm
Width: 13.600 cm
Thickness: 4.000 cm

EA 61062

Ancient Egypt and Sudan

    Trial piece with a birth scene

    From Egypt
    Graeco-Roman Period, 332 BC - AD 305

    A woman giving birth while kneeling on two bricks

    Small stone objects of this type are generally regarded as sculptor's test pieces, but they may also have had a ritual significance, since many examples seem to have been donated to temples.

    Here, a woman is shown giving birth. It was very important in ancient Egypt for married couples to have children, especially a son. This was not only to continue the family line, but to perform the rituals of burial and ensure that offerings were maintained for the spirits of his parents in the Afterlife. A woman having difficulty conceiving a child would appeal to the gods for help, leaving small offerings at a local shrine of Hathor. This goddess, often shown as a cow, or woman with the ears of a cow, was particularly associated with fertility and birth.

    Birth was one of the most dangerous events in the life of any Egyptian, and was also life-threatening to the mother. Deities such as Taweret and Bes were called upon for protection from the malign spirits which were thought to cause complications with the birth. Heket, the frog goddess, and Meskhenet, who was a personification of the bricks on which the mother knelt, helped the woman to deliver the baby. Both mother and baby then underwent a period of confinement lasting fourteen days, which allowed them to rest, gain strength and avoid infections.

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


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