Cult stand with animal decoration
Predynastic Period, Naqada III to Dynasty 0
3100–2960, or earlier
Findspot: Egypt, Abydos
Height x diameter: 65.5 x 30.5 cm (25 13/16 x 12 in.)
Medium or Technique
Egypt: Pre-Dynastic and Dynastic (Gallery 105A)
Temple furnishings from the earliest days of the Egyptian state, like this well-preserved pottery stand, are extremely rare. The stand was excavated at the site of Abydos, near the temple of the funerary god Khentiamentiu (a precursor of Osiris). The temple context suggests that it served in the presentation of offerings, perhaps in the cult of the unidentified ram deity represented at the top in raised relief.
The powerful ram with heavy, straight horns is the most important element in the stand’s decoration. Placed within a rectangular frame at the uppermost part of the stand, this figure was stamped out of a separate piece of clay and applied to the surface before firing. The remainder of the upper part is decorated with recessed triangles, a pattern found in contemporary pottery from elsewhere in Egypt as well as Nubia.
Large, triangular openings divide the lower part of the stand into a series of four fields, two of which continue the geometric patterning found above. The other two fields bear incised giraffes standing beside palm trees, a motif that also occurs on other Early Dynastic items such as stone palettes, but becomes rare after Dynasty 1.
The plant-with-animal symbol may designate a particular plantation or domain. If so, the figures would be examples of early hieroglyphic writing. Another inscription appears in a rectangular frame along the neck of one giraffe, but the exact meaning of the text remains unclear.
Temple furnishings from the earliest days of the Egyptian state, like this pottery cult stand, are extremely rare. The powerful ram with heavy, straight horns may represent an early ram god. The central part of the stand is decorated with a pattern of incised triangles, a motif found at this time in both southern Egypt and Nubia. Large, triangular openings divide the lower part into four panels, two of which feature images of a giraffe standing beside a palm tree. The plant-with-animal symbol may identify a particular estate or plantation, in which case the figure would be examples of early hieroglyphic writing.
From Abydos. 1903: excavated by William Matthew Flinders Petrie for the Egypt Exploration Fund, assigned to the Egypt Exploration Fund in the division of finds by the government of Egypt, received by the MFA through subscription to the Egypt Exploration Fund. (Accession Date: January 1, 1903)
Egypt Exploration Fund by subscription