Ivory inlay of Taweret

Classic Kerma
about 1700–1550 B.C.

Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Kerma, K309


Height x width x depth: 12.2 x 3.1 x 0.2 cm (4 13/16 x 1 1/4 x 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World



This ivory inlay depicts the goddess Taweret, facing right and holding a knife in front of her, wearing a slightly flaring skirt with pleats. Irregularly incised lines and notches add detail to indicate the mouth, eye, ear, one pendulous breast, and both pleats and tie of the skirt. There is a large break down the right edge; most of the mouth/snout, the front of the arm (which likely would have held a knife), the skirt, and forward foot are missing. Portions of the ivory are stained a purplish-brown.

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. 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 K309. December 1913: 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