Figurine of a Pygmy Dance Leader

Middle Kingdom

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 111

Pygmies, small in stature but naturally proportioned, lived in Central Africa, and ancient Egyptians contacted them through intermediaries on the Upper Nile. Egyptians believed the pygmies possessed divine qualities and called their performances "dances of the gods." A young Egyptian woman named Hepy was given an automaton consisting of a board with pygmy figures that could be turned by pulling strings fastened around their bases. This piece may represent their leader.

Figurine of a Pygmy Dance Leader, Ivory

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