Detail View: The AMICA Library: Head of a Hippopotamus

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Nationality: 
African; North African; Egyptian
Creator Name-CRT: 
Head of a Hippopotamus
Title Type: 
Object name
Full View
Creation Date: 
ca. 1391-53 B.C.E.
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Egyptian alabaster (calcite) with traces of gesso and red pigment
L. from back to jaw 6 in. (15.2 cm)
AMICA Contributor: 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: 
New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Purchase, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, Gift of Henry Walters, by exchange, Ludlow Bull Fund, Beatrice Cooper Gift, and funds from various donors, 1997

This extraordinarily lifelike animal head was once part of a hippopotamus statue about three feet in length. Comparisons with other sculptures from the period indicate that it was created during the reign of King Amenhotep III. The seated statues that the king dedicated to the goddess Sakhmet are well known; their feline heads display hollow sinewed cheeks and knobby facial bones similar to those on the hippo. This head may have come from Amenhotep's mortuary temple on the west bank of the Nile opposite modern Luxor. Excavators have found another, even larger, hippo statue, also of alabaster, at the site. Together with hundreds of other sculptures-many of them representing deities in animal form-the hippos would have served in rituals procuring godlike status for the king. On the underside of the animal's jaw is an ancient drill hole. It may have been made for a metal support (the head is heavy) or for the insertion of the hook of a harpoon during a ritual hippopotamus hunt. Traces of paint, which are preserved in furrows at the sides of the mouth, may have been added at such a performance, transforming the white (beneficial) animal into a dangerous red one.

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