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Updated: 14 April 2015
Furniture ornament in the form of a cobra: the fact that the cobra wears the red crown of Lower Egypt means almost certainly that it represents Wadjet. The fine workmanship and the material used suggest that it belonged to a piece of elite, perhaps royal, furniture, such as a chair.
- Found/Acquired: Egypt
- Length: 13.6 centimetres
The cobra was a much feared and respected creature in Egypt. It possessed many different associations, particularly with royalty, and use of the symbol meant that the dangerous power of the cobra was always magically turned to the benefit of the user. Thus the king's uraeus, worn on his brow, is referred to in some battle texts as destroying his enemies and giving the king power over them. Images of Egyptian gods also bear the rearing cobra. This cobra could be interpreted as either Hathor who, in the guise of the eye of Ra, was sent to destroy mankind for being disrespectful, or as Sekhmet who was the fiery weapon of the god Ra and who could also be sent out to destroy the enemies of the gods. Ra bequeathed this gift of potential destruction, represented by the rearing cobra, to his descendants, the kings of Egypt.The rearing cobra also represents the goddess Wadjet, patron of the town of Buto. She and the vulture goddess Nekhbet, of el-Kab, represented Lower and Upper Egypt respectively and were shown wearing the appropriate red and white crowns. Together they were the tutelary goddesses of the third name of the king, the so-called "two ladies" name, placing him under their protection. Hence the uraeus represents both Wadjet and the power immanent in the cobra.
'Gold and Civilisation' Catalogue (Australia, 2001), p.117;
S. Quirke and J. Spencer, 'British Museum Book of Ancient Egypt', (London, 1992), 69, fig. 49;
J.H. Taylor and N.C. Strudwick, Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt. Treasures from The British Museum, Santa Ana and London 2005, pp. 174-5, pl. on p. 174;
N. Strudwick, Masterpieces of Ancient Egypt, London 2006, p. 269.
2001 13 Mar-24 Jun, Australia, Canberra, National Museum of Australia, Gold and Civilisation
2001 19 Jul-21 Oct, Australia, Melbourne, Museum Victoria, Gold and Civilisation
2005-2008, California, The Bowers Museum, Death and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt
2011 Jul–Sept, Newcastle, Great North Museum, Pharaoh: King of Egypt
2012 Oct–Jan, Dorchester, Dorset County Museum, Pharaoh: King of Egypt
2012 Feb–June, Leeds City Museum, Pharaoh: King of Egypt
2012 Jul-Oct, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Pharaoh: King of Egypt
2012 Nov– Feb 2013, Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Pharaoh: King of Egypt
2013 Mar–Aug, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery , Pharaoh: King of Egypt
2015 onwards, International touring exhibition TBC, Pharaoh: King of Egypt, PROMISED
Ancient Egypt & Sudan
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Object reference number: YCA69181
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