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Game Piece in the Form of a Lioness Wearing a Collar

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Pre-Dynastic, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
Early Sculpture

Almost all of the small figures in this case originally were placed in temples.


We do not know the significance of many of these early objects. The lion probably embodied divine or royal power, and frogs may have provided protection during childbirth, as in later times.

The figure of a squatting little boy in this case may have been offered to a god as the expression of a wish to bear children. The destructive powers of animals such as pigs, hippos, and scorpions could apparently be neutralized and even made useful through their images, as in the hippo-headed top of a mace (war club).

The ivory lioness was part of a common board game, of which partial sets have survived. The opposing side’s pieces were carved ivory figures of crouching lions or dogs.
MEDIUM Ivory
  • Place Made: Egypt
  • DATES ca. 3000-2675 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 1 to Dynasty 2
    PERIOD early Dynastic Period
    DIMENSIONS 1 1/4 x 2 3/16 in. (3.1 x 5.6 cm)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Pre-Dynastic, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
    ACCESSION NUMBER 35.1273
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Small reclining lion of ivory. Probably a game piece. The piece is well modeled although the head suggests the mildness of a dog, rather than the power of a lion. The pose is free and suggests the naturalism of the period, Proto-dynastic probably of the 1st dynasty. Condition: The piece is in very bad condition. One front leg missing, part of one head leg and a considerable portion of one side missing. The piece has been assembled from many parts and there are many chips and cracks.
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