Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Hippopotamus Head Amulet

Middle Kingdom
Dynasty 12
ca. 1981–1802 B.C.
From Egypt
L. 1.6 cm (5/8 in); w. 0.8 cm (5/16 in)
Credit Line:
Gift of Helen Miller Gould, 1910
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 109
Hippos were common inhabitants of the Nile River. The animal's aggressive nature and large size worried the ancient Egyptians because they frequently went out in boats on the river. Protection against this dangerous animal was imperative, even though the hippo's habit of roaring at dawn and dusk connected the animal to the sun god. Hippo amulets appear as early as 4000 B.C. and are found through the New Kingdom. By then, the hippo had probably largely disappeared from Egypt and individual protection was less essential. Hippo amulets are made from a variety of stones, and a green stone would represent vegetation and therefore bring an association of goodness and prosperity to the wearer as well as protection.
Formerly in the collection of the Reverend Chauncey Murch (died 1907). Collected between 1883 and 1906 while Murch was a missionary in Egypt. Collection purchased by the Museum from the Murch family with funds provided by Helen Miller Gould, 1910.

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