Unfinished basalt statue of a queen or goddess

From Egypt
Late Period, around 600 BC

The production of a statue from a hard stone such as basalt or granite was an extremely slow and painstaking process. As with all statues, the block was first marked with the basic shape of the statue. The figure was then roughly cut out and the features indicated using tools of hard stone.

Even at this early stage, the sex and status of the figure and the positions of the limbs can be identified. The woman wears a uraeus on her forehead, so must be a queen or goddess. She sits on a square throne with a low back, set on a plinth. One of her hands lies flat on her knee, while the other holds something which would be modelled later in the process, perhaps a lotus flower.

The time and manpower needed to produce the perfect finish on hard stone statues is difficult to imagine. By the time a statue was finished, the skin would be perfectly smooth, the jewellery and hieroglyphs crisply and concisely carved. This was not simply due to the professionalism of the sculptors. It was vital that each statue represented the perfect image of the king, deity or private individual, so that it could act magically in their place.

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More information


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

I. Shaw and P. Nicholson (eds.), British Museum dictionary of A (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)


Height: 30.500 cm

Museum number

EA 55251


Belmore Collection


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