Ivory inlay of Taweret

Classic Kerma
about 1700–1550 B.C.

Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Kerma, tomb K 439


Height x width x depth: 9.8 x 4.3 x 0.3 cm (3 7/8 x 1 11/16 x 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World



This ivory inlay piece, which would have adorned a wooden fixture such as a funerary bed, depicts the goddess Taweret, facing right and holding a knife in front of her, wearing a somewhat flaring skirt. Lightly incised lines indicate the mouth, arm, and one pendulous breast. It has broken into several fragments but the surviving portions comprise a nearly complete inlay.

Taweret (literally: “the great one”) was an especially popular goddess in the domestic sphere throughout pharaonic times. She was conceived as having the body and head of a pregnant hippo, paws of a lion, and back/tail of a crocodile. She was considered a protective deity especially for expecting and birthing mothers as well as young children. She often weilds a knife as a symbol of this protective role. Her images appear on many household fixtures such as beds, chairs, and headrests, all of which can also be found as funerary items. She became known outside of Egypt as well, appearing in Nubia (as with this object) and Crete.


From Kerma, tomb K 439. 1914: excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of Sudan.
(Accession Date: March 1, 1920)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition