Figure of standing female with upraised arms - ROM2018_16147_73


Figure of standing female with upraised arms

Medium:Unbaked clay
Geography: Undetermined site, Upper Egypt
Date: c. 5300-4000 BC
Period: Early Predynastic Period
32 × 13.2 × 6.8 cm
Object number: 948.34.91
Credit Line: Gift of Sir Robert Mond
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

Figurines with a beak-like silhouette to the head are known as "bird women," a clearly recognizable if not too common type of Predyanstic figurine. The most notable examples have been excavated in burial 2 at el-Ma'mariya near Hierakonpolis.  The shape of the head seems to focus on the chin and the nose, the later being a source of breath and hence life. The raised arms may indicate a type of ritual dance or greeting and are also depicted on many Predynastic decorated-ware vessels. The figure is presented bending forward at the waist at the same time as it raises it arms, suggesting a ritual action or greeting. 

The ROM figurine clearly represents an adult woman. Although no clothing is indicated, there are small modelled breasts on the chest. The legs are thick and vertical ending in large feet which are separated.  This thick lower body provides stability for the figure. The figure bends forward at the waist and has a bit of a belly placed over an indented pubic triangle above the division of the legs. The hands raised above the head suggest the enactment of a dance or greeting and the figure may be termed a "celebrant." The hands are turned inward and the fingers are incised. The hands have been broken off at the wrist and their surface does not match that of the arms, so likely they are restored.

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