An Egyptian Hippopotamus Head Amulet, Middle Kingdom, ca. 2070 - 1600 BCE
Masterfully carved from black serpentine, this flat-backed hippopotamus head features a large snout, incised mouth, bulging eyes, and is pierced horizontally for attachment. Wearing an amulet such as this was perhaps intended to act apotropaically protecting its wearer by warding off the attentions of this dangerous and bad-tempered animal or was perhaps intended to bestow on their wearer the river-horse's great strength.
Common inhabitants of the Nile, hippos were aggressive and very large, posing serious danger for those on the river. While protection was imperative, the hippopotamus was also linked with regeneration; it lived in the renewing waters of the Nile and was believed to roar noisily at dawn and dusk, thus linking itself with the sun's passage and the symbolism of death and rebirth.
Ref: Carol Andrews, Amulets of Ancient Egypt, London: British Museum Press (1994) p. 64.
For a similar example, see: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, accession number 10.130.2310
Condition: The head is intact and in excellent condition overall, a particularly nice example. Presented on a mid-century modern acrylic stand.
Dimensions: Height: 1 inch (2.5 cm)
Provenance: Stewart Giles (1951-1993) private collection, acquired in London between 1978 and 1982, then by family descent.
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