Art/ Collection/ Art Object

White cross-lined ware bowl illustrating a hippo hunt

Predynastic, late Naqada I–early Naqada II
ca. 3700–3450 B.C.
From Egypt
Pottery, paint
H: 8.5 cm (3 3/8 in.); diam: 12.7 cm (5 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1912
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 101
A hippo hunt is underway on the exterior of this beautifully preserved bowl. The man wears hunting gear, that is, a penis-sheath and an animal’s tail, and holds two cords attached to harpoons now embedded in the face of the large hippo that faces him. A second smaller hippo, behind the first, shares the same fate. For the rest of Egyptian history, hippo hunts were incorporated into certain rituals and myths, most of which revolved around securing the king’s power.

Hippopotami are dangerous animals, and the Egyptians knew how easily a lightweight boat could be over turned and the occupants left to face a massive, angry animal. By 3700 B.C., the ancient Egyptians represented the hippo in scenes on ceramic vessels that show the animals being controlled by either humans or the environment.
Purchased in Egypt from Ghirgis and Abd el-Nour Ghabriel, 1912.

Hayes, William C. 1953. Scepter of Egypt I: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge, Mass.: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 17.

Patch, Diana Craig 2011. "From Land to Landscape." In Dawn of Egyptian Art, edited by Diana Craig Patch. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 35–37, 39, no. 23.

Allen, Susan J. 2011. "Works in the Exhibition." In Dawn of Egyptian Art, edited by Diana Craig Patch. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 246, no. 23.

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