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Turtle-headed protective wooden figure

  • Detail of head

    Detail of head

 

Height: 37.200 cm

Acquired in 1912

EA 50704

Reading Room

    Turtle-headed protective wooden figure

    From a royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings, Thebes, Egypt
    End of the 18th Dynasty, around 1325 BC

    A watery messenger of Osiris

    Strange creatures were thought to inhabit the dark and unseen realms of the world. Some were thought to be among the obstacles that the deceased must negotiate in order to reach the Mansion of Osiris, the place of judgement and entry to the Afterlife. Being an aquatic animal, the turtle was associated with the Underworld and so was seen as one of the forces of chaos.

    This figure, like other figures of demons and the demons depicted in the Book of the Dead, has a human body and the head of a dangerous animal. As on representations of animal-headed gods, a divine wig has been used to mask the juncture between animal and human. Figures like this, placed in a context such as a tomb or an amulet, transformed the malevolent threat of such demons into protective power. Placed in royal burials, they were probably intended to help and protect the king on his journey to the Afterlife.

    E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

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

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