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Enigmatic Relief

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
The subject of this relief is uncertain. The image of a pregnant hippopotamus with a lion’s mane is similar to the goddess Taweret. This goddess, with the addition of a crocodile on her back and another nipping her paw, is often found in Egyptian astronomical texts in connection with the northern constellations.

However, the inscription at the left names Hapi, the god of the Nile’s inundation, who has nothing to do with the stars. Perhaps the strong denotations of fertility of both Taweret and Hapi hold a clue to the meaning of the scene.
MEDIUM Limestone
  • Place Made: Egypt
  • DATES ca. 664–30 B.C.E.
    PERIOD Late Period to Ptolemaic Period (possibly)
    DIMENSIONS 14 5/16 x 13 1/2 x 2 3/4 in., 23 lb. (36.4 x 34.3 x 7 cm, 23 lb.)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Portion of a limestone relief. Represented is the goddess Taweret shown in her normal guise of a pregnant hippopotamus with lion's feet and a crocodile upon her back. The goddess is shown striding left with outstretched arms. Before the goddess, and touching one of her hands, is a small crocodile. Behind Taweret is a partially preserved column of text. In front of her-above and below her arms- are preserved portions of smaller inscriptions. Traces of original red pigment appear to be preserved upon her tongue. Condition: Back and sides rough; numerous chips, scratches and encrusted dirt; long surface cracks running from top to bottom through the crocodile upon the back of the goddess.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
    CAPTION Enigmatic Relief, ca. 664–30 B.C.E. Limestone, 14 5/16 x 13 1/2 x 2 3/4 in., 23 lb. (36.4 x 34.3 x 7 cm, 23 lb.). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 70.2. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 70.2_version1_PS6.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 70.2_version1_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2013
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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