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Wooden figure of a hippopotamus-headed figure

  • Detail of head

    Detail of head


Height: 32.500 cm
Width: 17.000 cm

EA 50699

Reading Room

    Wooden figure of a hippopotamus-headed figure

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

    Sent by Osiris to assist the king on his journey to the Afterlife

    Ancient Egyptians saw the hippopotamus as a dangerous creature. It is often depicted in marshland scenes, lurking below the water, or capsizing a boat. The male was associated with chaos, often in the form of the god Seth, who murdered Osiris in an attempt to seize the throne of Egypt; scenes of hippo hunting are occasionally found in tombs and temples and relate to this myth. The fierceness of the female in protecting her young was reflected in the goddess Taweret.

    Turning the potential malevolence of the hippo around, its fearsome power could be used to the benefit of the deceased. This figure was among those provided for the king in his tomb, sent by the god Osiris to assist him in his journey to the Afterlife. Such figures were also believed to witness the transformation of the king into the sun-god during his travel through the realm of the dead.

    The figure is shown with its mouth gaping open to reveal peg-like teeth. The lower part of its body is human, shown crouching and mummified. This is the typical form that the demon guardians of the gates to the Underworld take, as well as characterizing the hieroglyphic symbols for deities.

    E. Otto, Egyptian art and the cults of (London, Thames and Hudson, 1968)


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