Mirror inscribed with name of priestess of Hathor - ROM2018_16224_65


Mirror inscribed with name of priestess of Hathor

Medium:Copper, incised and inscribed
Geography: Undetermined site, Egypt
Date: c. 2040-1650 BC
Period: 11th-13th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom
22.3 × 20.1 × 0.2 cm
Object number: 909.80.541
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This mirror once belonged to a women at the royal court named Asha; she lived almost four thousand years ago. Her name and her title of “Sole favourite of the King” were inscribed upon the mirror. A wooden handle          probably completed her possession. Like many upper class women, she was a priestess Hathor, the goddess of love and beauty. This title does not imply she belonged to a celibate sisterhood. Her role would probably have been more like that of a singer in an elite choir today. She would have taken part in temple rituals and enjoyed enhanced status from her position. Likewise, her title ‘sole favourite of the king’ implies a personal but not necessarily intimate relationship with him; she might have been married to an important courtier.

The disk is reminiscent of the slightly flattened shape of the rising and setting sun, a symbol of regeneration. Such mirrors were not simply or entirely household objects, but also carried connotations of the goddess Hathor, and associated the owner with her.  Images of mirrors are often found painted in tombs and coffins, and on stele and the walls of tombs, mirrors appear under the seats of women, or in their hands. Mirrors were often included in burials as grave goods. The name for mirror shared the sound 'ankh' with the word for life, perhaps because a living image appears in it.

When it was polished, the bronze disk would have given a quite satisfactory reflection of its owner, perhaps all the more welcome for the warm colour of the reflection and an image less brutally sharp than we see nowadays in silver or glass.

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