Kallos Gallery

Two Egyptian gilt wood ibis heads

Ptolemaic Period, Circa 332-30 BC

 

 

Two Egyptian gilt wood ibis heads

Ptolemaic Period, Circa 332-30 BC

Length: 28cm; 34.5 cm

 

The ibis was a sacred animal in ancient Egypt, with Thoth, the god of writing and wisdom being ibis-headed. These heads would once have surmounted mummified ibises. The head would have been positioned turned backwards with the beak resting on the back of the animal, as if the bird was sleeping. The end of each neck has a loop for attachment and each head would have been stitched onto the mummy with thread. Some traces of the linen mummy wrappings are preserved on the bottom.

Herodotus (Histories II, 67) wrote that, like the dead cats brought to Bubastis to be embalmed and buried, ibises were taken to Hermopolis, the major cult center of Thoth. The necropolis that was associated with this city can be found nearby, at Tuna el-Gebel. The custom of burying mummified ibises in the vast subterranean network of galleries here lasted almost 700 years.

LITERATURE

For more on ibis heads see, Ikram, S., (ed.), Divine Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt, Cairo, 2005 and Berteaux, V., et al, ‘Mummified, Deified and Buried at Hermopolis Magna – The Sacred Birds from Tuna el-Gebel, Middle Egypt’ in Bietak, M., Ägypten und Levante / Egypt and the Levant XV, 2005.

 

 

PROVENANCE

Kofler-Truniger Collection, Lucerne, Switzerland, acquired before 1983

 

Back to top