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Mating Hippopotami

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

In Egyptian art, one symbol could represent both a trait and its opposite. The hippopotamus could represent great danger and chaos or, alternatively, fertility and protection in childbirth. The statuette of a male hippopotamus could represent the god Seth, who embodied danger, chaos, and disorder in the world. Yet the rare limestone statuette of hippopotami mating perhaps served as a symbol that preserved the fertility of the earth. And a necklace consisting of images of the female hippopotamus goddess Taweret could protect a woman in labor.
MEDIUM Limestone
  • Place Made: Egypt
  • DATES 664–30 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 26, or later
    PERIOD Late Period to Ptolemaic Period
    DIMENSIONS 5 1/2 x 3 3/4 x 11 1/2 in. (14 x 9.5 x 29.2 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Compact limestone (?) sculpture of two crocodiles enclosed in one body (?). Heads worked on great detail, body undecorated. Meaning unknown. Possible representation of the goddess Tanent. Condition: Good; one side of body has extensive black stains. Other side of body is considerably weathered, apparently by vegetal growth during burial. Minor chips on various parts of head. Very fine workmanship.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Mating Hippopotami, 664–30 B.C.E. Limestone, 5 1/2 x 3 3/4 x 11 1/2 in. (14 x 9.5 x 29.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.262. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum (Gavin Ashworth,er), 36.262_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 36.262_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph (Gavin Ashworth, photographer), 2012
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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