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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, glazed
  • Place Made: Egypt
  • DATES ca. 1539-1425 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY early XVIII Dynasty-middle XVIII Dynasty
    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)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Male Birth-God, ca. 1539-1425 B.C.E. Faience, glazed, 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, CUR.37.912E_negL_897_9A_bw.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, CUR.37.912E_negL_897_9A_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Dark blue green glazed faience amulet representing the god Bes standing. The rear surface is flat.
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