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Female Figurine

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

Called “Bird Ladies” because of their birdlike heads, these figurines are painted with long white skirts; the remains of black pitch on the heads of a few indicate added hair or wigs. Two types are known—the majority have raised arms, while others have “stub-arms,” which may indicate a flattened version of arms bent below the breasts. Similar Predynastic figures, with more human but featureless round heads, occur on painted pottery made in the same era (an example is on view in the Egyptian galleries on the third floor).

Excavated figurines of both types come from burials. These examples were among sixteen deposited in one tomb. Perhaps they represent goddesses, priestesses, or mourners; their presence in tombs suggests a function connected to the mortuary ritual or the rebirth of the deceased.
MEDIUM Terracotta, paint
  • Place Excavated: Ma'mariya, Egypt
  • DATES ca. 3650 B.C.E.-3300 B.C.E.
    PERIOD Predynastic Period, Naqada II Period
    DIMENSIONS 9 1/16 x 1 3/16 x 3 1/4 in. (23 x 3 x 8.2 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 07.447.500
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Female Figurine, ca. 3650 B.C.E.-3300 B.C.E. Terracotta, paint, 9 1/16 x 1 3/16 x 3 1/4 in. (23 x 3 x 8.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 07.447.500. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, 07.447.500_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2008
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    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Pottery figurine of a woman, with uplifted arms. Rather small breasts. Flat torso. Long legs, peg-shaped, extremely faintly separated. Buff pottery, painted red on body; white, indicating cloth, from hips down. Condition: Arms repaired at shoulder. Head and neck and arms from elbows on lacking. Foot end damaged. Paint mostly gone.
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