Art/ Collection/ Art Object
{{img.publicCaption}}

Hippopotamus amulet

Period:
Predynastic, Naqada I–early Naqada II
Date:
ca. 3700–3450 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt
Medium:
Limestone (pink)
Dimensions:
L: 7.4 x H: 4.4 x W: 2.2 cm (2 15/16 x 1 3/4 x 7/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1923
Accession Number:
23.2.30
Not on view
Egyptologists understand this figurine to be an amulet, which was designed to be suspended by a cord passing through the holes above its back. This type of hippo figurine is distinctive for three reasons: they were made from pink limestone, created in pairs, and depicted as pregnant females. This last observation is evident by from the swollen belly that nearly touches the ground; most hippo statuettes do not display this feature.

The precise meaning of these amulets is unclear, but two possibilities come to mind. One straightforward interpretation is that these amulets functioned as fertility symbols either for the deceased’s rebirth in the next life or the continued existence of the world. Alternatively, we may be seeing an early version of a hippo goddess, a deity that protects pregnant women, especially during childbirth. Ipy, Reret, and Taweret are later versions of such deities in which the iconography of a hippo played an important role.

Diana Craig Patch 11/17
Formerly collection of the Rev. Randolph Humphrey Berens (d. 1922). Berens Collection sold at Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, London [June-July 1923]; purchased at this sale by Howard Carter and sold to the Museum, 1923.

Hayes, William C. 1953. Scepter of Egypt I: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Part I: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 20.

Patch, Diana Craig 2011. "From Land to Landscape." In Dawn of Egyptian Art, edited by Diana Craig Patch. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 39, no. 27.

Allen, Susan J. 2011. "Works in the Exhibition." In Dawn of Egyptian Art, edited by Diana Craig Patch. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 246, no. 27.

Related Objects

The Royal Acquaintances Memi and Sabu

Date: ca. 2575–2465 B.C. Medium: Limestone, paint Accession: 48.111 On view in:Gallery 103

Nikare with his Wife and Daughter

Date: ca. 2420–2389 B.C. or later Medium: Limestone, paint Accession: 52.19 On view in:Gallery 103

Fragmentary Face of King Khafre

Date: ca. 2520–2494 B.C. Medium: Travertine (Egyptian alabaster) Accession: 26.7.1392 On view in:Gallery 103

Figurine of a Seated Woman

Date: ca. 3450–3300 B.C. Medium: Limestone, organic material, paint, malachite Accession: 07.228.71 On view in:Gallery 101

Two Vases in the Shape of a Mother Monkey with her Young

Date: ca. 2289–2246 BC Medium: Travertine (Egyptian alabaster), paint, resin and pigment Accession: 30.8.134, 1992.338-related On view in:Gallery 103