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Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

This charmingly painted tilapia symbolizes fertility. Because tilapias carry their fertilized eggs in their mouth until they are ready to hatch, the Egyptians viewed them as capable of spontaneous generation and thus regeneration and rebirth. X-rays have revealed pellets of clay inside this fish that represent the eggs and suggest it was used as a rattle during rituals, a form of musical accompaniment to prayer. The pastel black, red, and blue paints were common on pottery made at Akhenaten’s capital Amarna, and at his father’s palace at Malkata.
MEDIUM Clay, pigment
DATES ca. 1390–1336 B.C.E.
DYNASTY late Dynasty 18
PERIOD New Kingdom
DIMENSIONS 2 9/16 x 4 7/16 x 1 1/4 in. (6.5 x 11.2 x 3.2 cm)  (show scale)
CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Painted pottery fish, interior hollow and fitted with six unpainted pottery pellets. Face area, tail, dorsal and anus fins and underbody painted light blue. Scales painted with black outline on tan background, in part colored blue and red. Eyes, mouth and gills incised. Anus in raised relief. Possibly a rattle but more probably a food offering intended to furnish supply of fish to deceased. Condition: Minor chips on tail and fins. Tail assembled from two pieces. Pellets probably represent eggs.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Fish, ca. 1390–1336 B.C.E. Clay, pigment, 2 9/16 x 4 7/16 x 1 1/4 in. (6.5 x 11.2 x 3.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 48.111. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 48.111_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 48.111_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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