Statuette of a hippopotamus

  • Egypt
  • MiddieKingdom
  • 21-17c B.C.
  • Faience
  • H-5.8 W-5
Statuette of a Hippopotamus

This hippopotamus is an embodiment of the Nile floodplain. Water lilies emerge from four sides of its body, and it bears a frog and a butterfly on its back. Every year after the floods, life was reborn in these flood plains. The hippopotamus was originally considered a harmful animal; the male was considered to be an agent of the evil god Set, but the female was deified as Taweret, guardian of fertility and pregnant women. Not only the well-known lily, but the frog and butterfly symbolised rebirth, so this faience figure has clearly been transformed into a guardian beast. However, in the ceremony where the statuette was interred with the deceased, all four limbs may have to be broken, perhaps to wisely strip the animal of its aggression.