Hippopotamus pendant - ROM2009_11153_3


Hippopotamus pendant

Medium:Limestone, carved and polished
Geography: Excavated at Armant, Egypt
Date: c. 4000-3000 BC
Period: Predynastic Period
6 × 2.1 × 4.5 cm
Object number: 935.20.43
Credit Line: Gift Of Sir Robert Mond
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This pendant was one of a pair found in a grave.

The hippopotamus and the crocodile are the most commonly portrayed animals in early Egypt. The large, aggressive hippo was one of three man-killers; lions and crocodiles were the others. Many tombs, throughout Egyptian history, have an image of hippos being hunted and killed.  Why would anyone make a pendant of the animal?  Was it to protect the wearer against hippos?  To give the wearer the strength and power of a hippo?  To commemorate a successful hunt?  Or was it something quite different?

A clue to the meaning of this piece may be found in its posture.  Notice how the stomach hangs down, almost touching the ground.  Is the animal depicted a pregnant female?  A number of similar pink limestone pendants exist, all with the elaborately drilled holes in the knob on their backs, presumably for suspension.  Such amulets have been found in pairs, in burials.  They are larger than most amulets, and quite heavy.

It is possible that pink limestone amulets, such as this example, are early portrayals of the goddess Taweret, whose ferocity and strength were used to protect pregnant mothers and their babies.  This pendant was found in a tomb, perhaps in hope of protection in the Afterlife.

Object History: Excavated by the Egypt Exploration Society
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