Tag in the form of a man

Tag with human head

Egyptian
Predynastic Period
Naqada II, 3650–3300 B.C.


Dimensions

Height x width: 6 x 1.9 cm (2 3/8 x 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

04.1946

Medium or Technique

Ivory

On View

Egypt: Pre-Dynastic and Dynastic (Gallery 105A)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

Human figures sometimes take the form of rectangular ivory tags with incised and inlaid decoration. This schematically rendered tag-type figure with a pointed beard portrays a man or possibly a deity, and may have served as an idol or amulet. The man’s only garment is a simple belt or loincloth, carefully indicated by means of incision. Similar attire appears on some of the earliest large-scale cult statues of gods, who otherwise appear to be nude. The massive eyes of this figure were once inlaid with semiprecious materials or beads. There is no loop for suspension, but the deeply carved groove at the bottom, a common feature of these tags, suggests that it may have been suspended on a leather thong (fastened around the groove). Statuettes of this type have been discovered in burials, often lying beside the arm of the deceased, with fragments of leather still attached. Some scholars have suggested that they were worn as amulets, while others propose that they were purely practical, serving as stoppers or plugs for water skins.


Human figures sometimes take the form of rectangular ivory tags with incised and inlaid decoration. This schematically rendered tag-type figure with a pointed beard portrays a man or possibly a deity, and may have served as an idol or amulet. The man’s only garment is a simple belt or loincloth, carefully indicated by means of incision. Similar attire appears on some of the earliest large-scale cult statues of gods, who otherwise appear to be nude. The massive eyes of this figure were once inlaid with semiprecious materials or beads. There is no loop for suspension, but the deeply carved groove at the bottom, a common feature of these tags, suggests that it may have been suspended on a leather thong (fastened around the groove). Statuettes of this type have been discovered in burials, often lying beside the arm of the deceased, with fragments of leather still attached. Some scholars have suggested that they were worn as amulets, while others propose that they were purely practical, serving as stoppers or plugs for water skins.

Provenance

From Sheikh Ali. 1904, purchased in Egypt by Albert M. Lythgoe.
(Accession Date: January 1, 1904)

Credit Line

Emily Esther Sears Fund