Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Wooden figure of a turtle-headed guardian demon: overlain with plastered linen. The contorted pose of this creature, who sits with its lower half in profile and upper body turned toward the viewer, is eerily menacing, as if the monster were ponderously swinging around to confront an interloper. Of the nature of the head, there can be no doubt: it is a turtle - a whole turtle, with its head extended. A divine wig has been used to mask the juncture between animal and human. Here, however, a clever vagueness has been employed - it is unclear whether the wig passes over or under the turtle's shell.


  • Authority

  • Culture/period

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 37.2 centimetres
    • Width: 46.5 centimetres
    • Depth: 18.5 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    The turtle, a mud dweller, was considered a creature of chaos, dangerous to the living and enemies of the gods. In the Middle Kingdom, however, they were depicted on jewellery, magical implements, and even children's drinking cups, thus transforming their threat into protective power. These more mythical forms of the turtle were also apotropaic: designed to protect the king in his journey to the Afterlife and in his travels with the sun god, Ra. They appear to be the earliest of their kind; nothing similar was found among the magical statuettes in the tomb of Tutankhamun, whose reign preceded that of Horemheb by only a few years.Reeves in Complete Valley of the Kings, 133, now ascribes these objects to the tomb of Horemheb.


  • Bibliography

    • Russmann 2001 72 bibliographic details
    • Taylor 2010 no. 96 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    1990 24 Mar-10 Jun, Australia, Canberra, National Gallery of Australia, Civilization: Ancient Treasures from the British Museum, cat. no.35
    1990 28 Jun-23 Sep, Australia, Melbourne, Museum of Victoria, Civilization: Ancient Treasures from the British Museum, cat. no.35
    2010 4 Nov-2011 6 March, Round Reading Room BM, Book of the Dead

  • Condition

    fair (feet damaged, cartonnage chipped)

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Ancient Egypt & Sudan

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


COMPASS Image Caption: Detail of head

Detail: Other

COMPASS Image Caption: Detail of head

Image description



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Object reference number: YCA22232

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