Figure of a human head - ROM2018_16165_31


Figure of a human head

Medium:Glazed composition (faience)
Geography: Excavated at Abydos, Egypt
Date: c. 3100-2890 BC
Period: 1st Dynasty, Early Dynastic Period
1.5 × 1.8 × 2 cm
Object number: 905.2.80
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This tiny head repays a closer look with many mysteries.  At first glance, the head seems human, though it's rather odd with a flat nose, bulging eyes and small chin.  The head is topped with a fairly human-looking head of hair in dark brown. The small ears are pointed and somewhat feline.  Was the image meant to be a human baby, a deity, or perhaps a human wearing the mask of a deity?  Unfortunately, the rest of the statue is missing, so that we will never really know who or what this odd little piece was meant to represent.

The head belongs to the collection of small figures found by Matthew Flinders Petrie at Abydos during the 1900-1902 excavations by the Egypt Exploration Society, in a refuse area at the earliest temple. Petrie found a considerable number of whole and fragmentary statues of small boys, and this head does resemble some of them, such as Plate III, 19, plate V 44, and plate IX numbers 185 and 186, though most of the excavation pictures do not show separately made hair, as in the ROM piece.  Plate XI, number 239, however, may show hair and is unmistakably a young boy, shown naked with finger to the mouth.  Such tiny figures may have been votive offerings asking the gods for a son.

Object History: Excavated by the Egypt Exploration Society, 1900-1902
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