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Male Birth-God

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
The Birth-God

Over time, the image of the Egyptian birth-god underwent an evolution.

During the Middle Kingdom and at the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty, the male birth-god appeared as a lion-man: a human man with a feline mane and tail. Around the middle of the dynasty, the Egyptians sought to combat an increase in infant mortality with a new amuletic form. Beginning with Amunhotep II (circa 1426–1400 B.C.E.), the birth-god’s body assumed the characteristics of a dwarf with short, thick limbs, sunken chest, and fleshy buttocks. Because dwarfs rarely survived infancy in antiquity, one who did was considered magical. By combining the attributes of these “charmed” dwarfs with the ancient lion-man, craftsmen produced a new, more powerful protector of women and children.
MEDIUM Faience
  • Place Made: Egypt
  • DATES ca. 1539–1425 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY early Dynasty 18 to middle Dynasty 18
    PERIOD New Kingdom
    DIMENSIONS 1 1/4 x 11/16 x 3/16 in. (3.1 x 1.7 x 0.5 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Dark blue-green glazed amulet representing, in relief (the rear surface is flat), the god Bes standing on a small plinth with his hands at his hips. The arms and legs are openwork. The outer edge of the top of the figure is formed by the line of the curved brows. The details of the beard and fur on the abdomen are given by incised lines. The figure is pierced for suspension from side to side. Pendant breasts are not indicated. Condition: Small cracks in beard and right wrist
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
    CAPTION Male Birth-God, ca. 1539–1425 B.C.E. Faience, 1 1/4 x 11/16 x 3/16 in. (3.1 x 1.7 x 0.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.912E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 37.912E_top_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE top, 37.912E_top_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2022
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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