Period: Third Intermediate Period
Dynasty: Dynasty 22
Date: ca. 945–712 B.C.
Geography: From Egypt; Possibly from Upper Egypt, Thebes, Karnak
Dimensions: h. 17.5 cm (6 7/8 in); w. 4.7 cm (1 7/8 in); d 5.8 cm (2 1/4 in); weight 0.9 kg. (2 lbs)
Credit Line: Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926
Accession Number: 26.7.1412
The god Amun ("the hidden one") first came into prominence at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. From the New Kingdom onward, Amun was arguably the most important god in the Egyptian pantheon. As a creator god, Amun is most often identified as Amun-Re (in the typical Egyptian blending of deities, Amun is combined with Re, the principal solar god). His main sanctuary was the immense temple complex at Karnak on the east bank of the Nile at the southern edge of modern Luxor.
In this small representation, Amun stands in the traditional pose with the left leg forward. He is identified by his characteristic flat-topped crown, which originally supported two tall gold feathers, now missing. He wears the gods' braided beard with a curled tip and carries an ankh ("life") emblem in his left hand and a scimitar across his chest. On pylons and temple walls of the New Kingdom, Amun-Re is often depicted presenting a scimitar to the king, thus conferring on him military victory.
This statuette, cast in solid gold, is an extremely rare example of the sculpture made of precious materials that, according to ancient descriptions, filled the sanctuaries of temples. The figure could have been mounted on top of a ceremonial scepter or standard. If traces on the back are rightly interpreted, it was fitted with a loop that could have been employed for attachment, even possibly to an elaborate necklace. For the Egyptians, the color of gold and the sheen of its surface were associated with the sun, and the skin of gods was supposed to be made of gold.
The soft modeling of the torso, the narrow waist, and the facial features are typical of the art of the Third Intermediate Period. This era marks the decline of centralized power in Egypt, but it is also a time of great artistic achievement. Works in metal (gold, silver, and, above all, bronze) reached especially high levels, as attested by the Museum's statuette.