September 2023 will represent twenty-five years since the Egypt Centre opened to the public. To mark this occasion, we will be celebrating throughout the year with a variety of events. Additionally, this represents the 200th entry posted on this blog. This also provides the ideal opportunity to present the objects on display, case by case, within the museum. This blog post will thus kick things off by presenting the “Gods” case in the House of Death gallery. This case is the first one that visitors encounter when entering the gallery. Before examining the objects, it is important to note that the displays in the House of Death gallery have remained almost the same since the museum opened in 1998. One of our long-term plans is to completely refurbish this gallery in the coming years. Additionally, some of these objects have recently been 3D scanned and are now available on our Sketchfab page.
The Gods case (fig. 1) contains twenty-one objects, ranging from copper alloy statues to a Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure. Four of these objects have been on loan from the British Museum since 2005 as part of the British Museum Partnership programme, which loans objects to regional museums (Goodridge & Williams 2005). This consists of copper alloy statues of Ptah (EA11037), Sekhmet (EA64536), and Imhotep (EA27357). Additionally, a faience striding statue of Thoth (EA63796) is located in this case.
|Fig. 1: The Gods Case|
In the upper left-hand corner of the case are two copper alloy statues, which have been on long-term loan to the collection since 1983. W1374 is a seated figure of Isis nursing her young son Harpakhered (Harpocrates), whose name means “Horus the Child”. Next to this is W1375, a striding figure of Harpakhered with his finger to his mouth. He wears the double crown and has a sidelock of youth (fig. 2). On the same shelf are two heads. W217 is made of steatite and shows a goddess wearing a modius platform surrounded by uraei, which supports the so-called Hathoric crown of the solar-disk between cow horns. This head likely represents the goddess Isis and may also have originally depicted her nursing her son, as with W1374. ABhttps://egyptcentre.abasetcollections.com/Objects/Details/209423 is a faience head surmounted by a shrine containing an uraeus, which originally formed part of a sistrum. It was donated to the collection in 1997 from Aberystwyth University and is said to be from Abydos.
|Fig. 2: Statue of Harpakhered|
In front of them, on the bottom of the case, are several statues of Osiris, the husband of Isis and father of Horus. The two largely-complete statues of Osiris were purchased by Wellcome in 1906 from the collection of Robert de Rustafjaell. W85 is a standing figure of Osiris on a plinth. He is presented mummiform with his arms crossed to hold the crook and flail. While this statue looks quite plain, a close examination of the facial region shows that the eyes, eyebrows, and chin straps were originally inlaid. The double ostrich feathers that originally flanked the White Crown to form the Atef Crown are now missing (fig. 3). The front of the plinth is inscribed in two lines of hieroglyphs, which includes the name of an official called Ankhkhonsu. W102 is a seated figure of Osiris, who is also shown wearing the Atef Crown and holding the crook and flail. These votives represent some of the most common types of copper alloy statues dating between the Late Period and the Ptolemaic Period. Two heads of Osiris are located next to these statues. EC631 is made of copper alloy and shows the head of Osiris wearing the Atef Crown, the two ostrich feather attachments now missing, while W228b is made of stone and also depicts the god wearing the Atef Crown. The latter head was part of the 1906 Rustafjaell collection.
|Fig. 3: Statue of Osiris|
Next to the statues of Osiris are three further copper alloy figures. Two represent the god Amun(-Re) while the other depicts Nefertum. Both figures of Amun were donated to the collection by Aberystwyth University in 1997. AB106 is a striding figure, the lower left leg now missing. The god’s beard is nicely plaited, while the double plumes of his headdress are also missing (fig. 4). AB127 is more complete, although the details are not as fine as in the previous example. Likewise, Amun is depicted striding with hands by his side. The double plumes worn by this deity have not survived. The copper alloy statue of Nefertum (EC249) was gifted to the collection in 1978 from the British Museum as part of the dispersal of the residual material from excavations undertaken by the Egypt Exploration Society. This figure is now heavily damaged, with one of the legs and arms now missing. The deity is shown wearing a lotus blossom on his head. A suspension loop is located directly behind the head of Nefertum, which indicates that it may have been worn for amuletic purposes.
|Fig. 4: Statue of Amun|
Nefertum is also present with his mother, Sekhmet, on a faience dyad statue on display in the Gods case. W1163 was purchased by Wellcome in 1924 from the collection of Colonel John Evans (1828–1903). Despite damage to the front, including the head of Sekhmet now missing, the rear of the statue is particularly well preserved. It is decorated with five columns of hieroglyphs requesting good wishes from the gods (fig. 5).
|Fig. 5: Statue of Sekhmet and Nefertum|
Directly in front of this statue is a red wooden figure of a hippopotamus-headed male deity (W458). Such figures are rare, and it likely represents the god Seth (fig. 6). Both of his arms are now missing, although the Wellcome records suggest that the upper part of his left arm was present when catalogued in 1925. It was previously catalogued by Boscawen in December 1911 as part of a group of “ivory & other objects” in Wellcome’s collection. Unfortunately, there are no further details to help trace the origins of this figure.
|Fig. 6: Statue of Seth|
Two other wooden objects are present in the Gods case. W832 is a recumbent figure of the jackal deity Anubis, which would have once been located atop a Late Period coffin or canopic chest. It is painted black, except for a red mouth and red collar around his neck. On the far right of the case is a tall Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure (W2001C), which was presented to the collection in 1983 by the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (fig. 7). It had previously been gifted to the National Museum in 1924 by Henry Bruce, 2nd Baron Aberdare (1851–1929), although it can be traced back to the 1907 Rustafjaell sale where it is shown in plate VIII of the auction catalogue. Stylistically, this figure comes from Akhmim, one of the known sources of many of Rustafjaell’s objects. On top of the plinth of the Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure is a Sokar hawk (W2005C), which is not part of the original figure but was also part of the Lord Aberdare collection.
|Fig. 7: Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure|
The final object in this case is W2051a, which is one of the most intriguing artefacts in the museum. It is a female figure of a goddess, whose headdress is now missing. She has yellow (gold) skin, a green dress, and blue (lapis lazuli) hair. Yet the most remarkable thing about the object is that she is made entirely out of linen, which is covered in a layer of painted gesso (fig. 8). This object was previously published by Kate Bosse-Griffiths (2001, 184–187), who claimed that it has been found inside a Ptah-Sokar-Osiris “coffin” in the collection (W2051). This was supported by the fact that both objects were broken just below the knee, although recent research on both items has shown that the female figure was purchased by Wellcome in 1931 whereas the Ptah-Sokar-Osiris panel was purchased during the 1907 Rustafjaell sale. The female figure likely represents either Isis or Nephthys, although I’m unaware of any parallels of goddesses like this made entirely of linen. If any readers of this blog are aware of any, I would love to know!
|Fig/ 8: Figure of a goddess|
Bosse-Griffiths, Kate 2001. Problems with Ptaḥ-Sokar-Osiris figures: presented to the 4th International Congress of Egyptology, Munich, 1985. In Bosse-Griffiths, Kate, Amarna studies and other selected papers, 181–188. Freiburg (Schweiz); Göttingen: Universitätsverlag; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Goodridge, Wendy R. & Stuart J. Williams 2005. Offerings from The British Museum. Swansea: The Egypt Centre.