Ivory inlay of Taweret

Classic Kerma
about 1700–1550 B.C.

Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Kerma, K309


Height x width x depth: 11.8 x 3.4 x 0.2 cm (4 5/8 x 1 5/16 x 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World



This fragmentary ivory inlay depicts the goddess Taweret, facing right and wearing a slightly flaring skirt with pleats. In complete condition she would likely have had one arm extended forward holding a knife up in front of her face. Irregularly incised lines and notches add details such as ear shape, a exaggerated, pendulous breast that falls forward against the figure’s abdomen, and the pleats and tie of the skirt. A sizable break has removed the upper right portion of the inaly, including much of the face, arm, and knife. The left edge, corresponding to the figure’s back, has also broken away. The surviving portion is comprised of several joining segments with some thin pieces still missing.

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