Figure of standing female with upraised arms - ROM2018_16147_5


Figure of standing female with upraised arms

Medium:Unbaked mud
Geography: Undetermined site, Upper Egypt
Date: c. 4000-3200 BC
Period: Predynastic Period
33.3 × 22.5 × 7.5 cm
Object number: 900.2.46
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

Figure of a standing woman with arms upraised, wide hips, narrow waist and pendulous breasts. The figure is steatopygous with very thick hips, legs and feet, which form a stable anchor for the figure.  She bends forward at the waist and her arms gently undulate giving the appearance of movement. The stance of the hands also seems to express motion. The fingers of each hand are not differentiated, but each hand has a thick thumb.  The right hand seems to be pointing down and the left hand seems to point up. The head is dominated by the hair or wig which is made up of at least three layers of separately applied ringlets clearly visible in the back. These ringlets flare out at the base around the neck in such a way as to suggest the movement of the head. The top of the head is smooth. The hair frames a narrow oval without differentiation, which marks the face.

Such Predynastic female figures with upraised arms have traditionally been interpreted as either engaged in mourning, dance, or perhaps both activities.  Yet theposition with raised arms does not really accord with the traditional Egyptian mourning gesture, where the hands are held before the head. Recently Diana Craig Patch (2011) has argued for an interpretation of these figures as being depicted as enagaged in a motion of greeting (or praise), during which the person bows. Such an interpretation accords well with the details seen in the ROM figure (S.B. Shubert).

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