Tag Archives: Hathor

Object biography #21: An inscribed base from a statue of Hathor (Acc. no. 3309)


A guest blog from University of Exeter researcher Tara Draper-Stumm, who is researching the numerous Sekhmet sculptures of Amenhotep III at Kom el-Hettan. Here we reveal a previously-unidentified fragment from the Museum’s storerooms, likely from the same context. 

This inscribed rectangular granite base with a pair of feet in the striding position, both broken at the ankles, are all that remains of a standing statue of the goddess Hathor (acc. no. 3309), commissioned by Amenhotep III. An inscription in two columns on the base reads:

Son of Ra, Amenhotep, Ruler of Thebes, given life

Beloved of Hathor, Lady of jubilees

The inscription suggests that the statue was commissioned in preparation for the first of Amenhotep III’s three Sed (‘jubilee’) festivals, which took place in his 30th regnal year.


Acc. no. 3309

The base measures 43 cm in length by 22.5 cm wide, and is 14 cm in height, with a cracked surface. Statue bases associated with the well-known life-size (or larger) standing statues of the goddess Sekhmet are approximately 30%-40% larger than the Manchester statue base, with three columns of inscription. The size of the Manchester piece therefore suggests it comes from a statue that was smaller than lifesize, perhaps 1 metre or so in height.


Sekhmet statues from Kom el-Hettan in the British Museum

While we know that Amenhotep III commissioned hundreds of statues of himself and the gods in the run-up to his Sed festival, embellishing temples the length of Egypt, the inscription would indicate this statue fragment came from Kom el-Hettan in Luxor, the site of Amenhotep III’s funerary temple, where his Sed festival was likely celebrated.

This statue fragment entered the museum’s collection in 1895-6, the gift of Jesse Haworth, a major supporter of the work of Flinders Petrie and the newly established Egypt Exploration Society. In return for his support, Haworth received a selection of Petrie’s finds. In the 1895-96 season Petrie excavated a group of funerary temples on the west bank at Luxor, his results being swiftly published as Six Temples at Thebes in 1897. Petrie did not excavate at Kom el-Hettan, since “de Morgan [Director of the Antiquities Service] informed me that he reserved the site of the great funerary temple of Amenhotep III for his own work.” However, Petrie was allowed to investigate the ruins of Merneptah’s funerary temple, near Kom el-Hettan. Here Petrie “discovered a large amount of sculpture which had belonged to the temple of Amenhotep III, as that had been plundered for material by Merneptah.”


Detail of Acc. no. 3309.

Petrie makes no mention of this statue fragment in his report, and no photographs of it survive in the archives of the Petrie Museum, where photographs associated with this excavation are to be found. However, Petrie does mention finding parts of statues of jackals “split up into slices…and laid in the foundations of Merneptah,” along with parts of sphinxes, inscribed blocks and parts of statues of Amenhotep III, among the foundation fill. It seems possible therefore that the Manchester Museum’s statue base could also have been used in Merneptah’s foundations and was found there by Petrie. The condition of the statue base would certainly suggest this. Petrie also made mention of the area being “under the high Nile level”, with evidence buried statuary much “swelled and cracked,” presumably from water damage over time. This description also relates well to the damage to the Manchester statue base.

Such a statue of Hathor may once stood in a shrine inside Amenhotep’s funerary temple, one of many hundreds of statues commissioned for the temple and employed in ceremonies associated with the King’s Sed Festival. It is unclear what happened to the rest of the statue. It may have been broken up and used in the foundations of Merneptah’s temple, like so many other statues from Amenhotep’s funerary temple. Presumably if the body or head had survived in decent condition in association with the statue base Petrie would likely have kept them together. Since this area of Luxor has been dug up repeatedly since at least the early 19th century, including by Drovetti, Salt, and Belzoni, among others, it is also possible that a further fragment of the statue survives in another museum or private collection.


Hathor cow head. MMA acc. no. 19.2.5

Evidence survives for smaller than life-size divine statues being made in the reign of Amenhotep III. A head of the goddess Hathor as a cow is in the MMA in New York (acc no. 19.2.5). Made from porphyritic diorite, the head is only 28 cm wide at the ears, and the back pillar measures 15 cm wide. While this is probably not the head for our statue base, it could suggest what the statue looked like when completed

While we may never know for certain where this statue base was found, or how it originally looked, it adds to an ever-developing picture of Amenhotep III and the incredible rates of statuary production during his reign.

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A Colourful Goddess: Hathoric Pottery Decoration

Acc. no. 10984

Acc. no. 10984

One of the main tasks I’m working on as part of my traineeship here at Manchester Museum is the reorganisation of the Egyptian pottery store. The many boxes of pottery sherds (fragments) in particular continue to yield surprising finds: this week I came across two beautifully decorated sherds which immediately caught my eye.

During the New Kingdom, in particular the late 18th Dynasty, certain pottery forms including storage jars and bowls became highly decorative and featured moulded and painted motifs. Blue pigment, derived from cobalt, was also used to decorate pottery during this time and is distinctive to the New Kingdom and to particular sites including Amarna, Gurob and Malqata (Thebes).

Acc. no. 6204

Acc. no. 6204

Painted and moulded floral designs such as lotuses, cornflowers and poppies were used to decorate the vessels as well as animals including ducks, gazelles and ibexes. Hathor, goddess of fertility and beauty, was often shown with a human face and cow’s ears on blue-painted storage jars like these examples in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

MMA 12.180.31

MMA 12.180.31

Blue painted pottery was an item of high status since the cobalt, obtained from the Western Desert, was so difficult to procure and the level of craftsmanship involved in their creation made these objects particularly desirable during the New Kingdom. Blue-painted sherds with Hathoric motifs are still being found in Egypt today, such as this beautiful example found recently at the site of the palace of Amenhotep III at Malqata.

Hathor’s face was also moulded onto the surface of two sherds at Manchester Museum: a rim from a large polychrome carinated (angled) bowl (Acc. No. 6204) and another painted blue, red, white and black, which may originally have been part of a decorative handle (Acc. No. 10984). Unfortunately the provenance of these objects has since been lost but the decorative style and form of [6204] suggests that it dates to either the late 18th Dynasty or, perhaps more likely, the Ramesside Period.

The presence of blue pigment on [10984] suggests that it dates to the late 18th Dynasty and is likely originally from Amarna, Gurob or Malqata (Thebes). We can confidently compare this object with an example from Amarna from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (E.GA.4569.1943) which is also blue-painted and of a similar form, which may suggest that our example is also originally from Amarna.

Anna Garnett

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Trees in Ancient Egypt

Tree_climbing 655

Faience vessel showing a boy climing a palm tree to collect dates (Acc. no. 655).

As we enter 2013, here at the Museum we’ve been thinking a lot about trees. Trees in ancient Egypt were comparatively rare, and quality timber had to be imported from abroad. Native species included acacia, tamarisk, date and dom palm, persia and sycamore fig (Ficus sycamorus). The goddess Hathor was ‘Lady of the Sycamore’ and the tree was also associated with Isis and Nut, as well as appearing in funerary scenes wholly or partly as a ‘tree goddess’ who offers refreshment to the deceased.

Sling 102 (8)

Palm-fibre sling probably used to climb trees (Acc. no. 102)

The ished tree – a fruit-bearing deciduous species, probably the persia – had solar symbolism, and was the tree on which the king’s name and number of regnal years was inscribed. From love poetry, there is even evidence of talking trees!

In addition to associations with life, fecundity and rebirth, trees were also a source of food, such as dates and dom nuts. The Manchester Museum holds two complementary objects that illustrate the Egyptians’ dexterity in the practicalities of retrieving this produce. From the Middle Kingdom pyramid-builders town of Kahun comes a palm-fibre sling (Acc. No. 102), most likely used as an aid in climbing trees. On a New Kingdom faience bowl from Gurob (Acc. No. 655) is a lively scene of a small boy doing just that – perhaps helped (or discouraged?) by another figure at the foot of the tree. The harvesting of dates can still be seen in Egypt, albeit done with more modern climbing equipment, and British supermarkets often stock this popular export.

Date collecting in the Faiyum. Photo courtesy of Anna Hodgkinson.

Date collecting in the Faiyum. Photo courtesy of Anna Hodgkinson.

The Museum has embarked on a tree project, which aims to actively collect further specimens (many people believing that we no longer add to the Museum’s collections) and explore the cultural significance of trees in the past and for living cultures. Working with my colleague Rachel Webster, Curator of Botany, I look forward to investigating the resonances of trees – both practical and symbolic – for the ancient Egyptians.

Do you collect things tree-related? What do you think of this strategy of adding to the Museum’s collections? We’d love to hear from you.


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