Figure, votive phallus - 907.18.906_1


Figure, votive phallus

Medium:Carved wood, traces of gesso and paint
Geography: Excavated at Djeser-Akhet, Deir el-Bahri, Egypt
Date: c. 1186-1069 BC
Period: 20th Dynasty, Ramesside Period, New Kindgom
9.8 x 2.2 cm
Object number: 907.18.906
Not on view

This wooden phallus, along with more than forty others, was found in the speos of the Hathor shrine of Djeser-Akhet, the temple built by Nebhepetre Montuhotep at Deir el Bahri.  They had been placed around the statue of Hathor in cow form prior to the shrine being sealed toward the end of the Twentieth Dynasty. They do not seem to have been placed in any order; C.T. Currelly, who found them, wrote to Hornblower that "they had simply been dropped around. There was practically no dust in the place, except where it came down from the front. I could trace no order whatever in the laying out of these objects."

Unlike the  otherDeir el Bahri wooden phalloi, this phallus seems to have been roughly broken off at the distal end.  Naville, the excavator, found two crude wooden statuettes at Deir el Bahri.  According to Geraldine Pinch, "Both of these have a roughly carved head, a virtually rectangular body, small holes for attachment of arms, and a much larger hole at the bottom of the body, probably for the insertion of an erect penis." (Pinch, Votive Offerings to Hathor, p.237).  Herodotus mentions small statues, with movable male members, being carried in processions in later times (Herodotus II.48). A Hellenistic plaster image, 25.7 cm tall, of Horus-the-Child excavated by Geoffrey Martin at Sakkara (Cairo JdeE 92019), had been provided with a detachable wooden phallus. The phalloi from the Hathor shrine may have been removed from other uses, even from older wooden statues, for the final ritual, which did not include or require complete cult statues.

The meaning of the ritual deposition of these objects at Deir el Bahri is unknown. It's tempting to speculate that, as the shrine was being sealed up and the nearby village of Deir el Medina was being abandoned in the face of political and economic disturbances, that the phalloi were plaintive offerings given to the goddess in hope that their village and its shrine would someday experience a renewal of energy, fertility, and joy.

Object History: Excavated by the Egypt Exploration Society (Naville and Hall), 1905-1907
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