Hathor fetish capital

Third Intermediate Period, Dyn. 22, reign of Osorkon II
874–712 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Bubastis


Overall: 178.8 x 137.5 x 108.2 cm (70 3/8 x 54 1/8 x 42 5/8 in.) Weight: 28000 lb. (12700.7 kg)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Egypt: Sculpture and Tomb Chapels (Gallery 209)


The Ancient World


Columns and capitals

When the last king of Dynasty 21 died without an heir, the throne passed peacefully to his son-in-law’s family. The new royals were of Libyan stock, but their family had lived in Egypt for five generations, and only their names, Shoshenq and Osorkon, betrayed their foreign ancestry. They hailed from Bubastis in the eastern Delta, which they embellished with great monuments. The ancient temple of Bastet was completely rebuilt. Herodotus, who visited several hundred years later, wrote that other temples might be larger, or have cost more to build, but none was “a greater pleasure to look at.” Yet it was quite large enough, and costly. Today the site is so ruined that it is impossible to reconstruct an accurate plan of the temple in any period of its history. When the Egypt Exploration Fund excavated at Bubastis from 1887 to 1889, Boston received an exceptionally large and impressive share of the finds, including the enormous papyrus-bundle column, the colossal statue of Ramesses II, the block statue of Mentuherkhepeshef, and this majestic column capital, the best-preserved example out of five found at the site. Front and back are beautifully carved with the face of the goddess Bat. She has the usual cow’s ears and upturned hairstyle, crowned by a frieze of uraei (cobras) wearing sun disks. Engraved on the sides of the capital, beneath pairs of uraei wearing the crown of Upper Egypt, are the cartouches of Osorkon II, fifth king of Dynasty 22. Because the face of Bat was appropriated by Hathor as her fetish or sacred emblem about the end of the Eleventh Dynasty, it remained closely associated with her, although it was also considered an appropriate adornment for other great goddesses such as Bastet and Isis whose cults gained importance in the Late Period.


From Bubastis, great temple of Bastet, hypostyle hall. 1887-888: excavated by Edouard Naville for the Egypt Exploration Fund; awarded to the Egypt Exploration Fund by the government of Egypt; April 12, 1888, presented to the MFA at the Sixth Annual General Meeting of the Egypt Exploration Fund, through the Reverend W. C. Winslow. (Accession Date: January 1, 1889)

Credit Line

Egypt Exploration Fund by subscription