Head of the Goddess Taweret
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
Many deities in the official Egyptian pantheon can be recognized by their headdresses. The Double Crown of the beneficent goddess Mut, whose name means “mother,” characterizes her as a conveyor of kingship and the divine mother of pharaoh. Amun, whose name means “hidden,” is portrayed as a man wearing a tall, plumed crown. When he appears with a solar disk at the base of the crown, he is known as Amun-Re, who possesses both hidden and solar creative powers. When shown in tightly enveloping garb and with an erection, he may be called Amun-Re-Kamutef, associated with fertility and regeneration. An amulet in this virile attitude would have held the promise of eternal rebirth after death. Monthly rebirth is also invoked by the full and crescent moons of Khonsu, the divine heir of Amun and Mut.
In popular religion the protection of pregnancy and birth was entrusted to such deities as Taweret and Bes. The appearance of Taweret, “The Great One,” as a pregnant hippopotamus with lion and crocodile features is a dramatic symbol of protective motherhood. The dwarf with a lion’s face and legs likely represents Bes, who was worshipped in the home as a protector of motherhood, birth, and rebirth.
ca. 1336-945 B.C.E.
late Dynasty 18 to Dynasty 21
New Kingdom to Third Intermediate Period
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Head of Thueris in haematite broken form a complete statuette of the goddess. Conventional type of hippopotamus head with slightly open mouth, tongue protruding. All surfaces polished. Workmanship is of extraordinary quality.
Head of the Goddess Taweret, ca. 1336-945 B.C.E. Hematite, Height: 15/16 in. (2.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 58.92. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.58.92_wwgA-2.jpg)
installation, West Wing gallery A-2 installation, CUR.58.92_wwgA-2.jpg
. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2005
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Why the face of a hippopotamus?
This hippo head represents the goddess Taweret who was represented by a hybrid hippo-crocodile. She was a protective goddess who represented maternity and protector of royal and divine figures. If you look closely, you can see sharp teeth in her mouth.