Ivory inlay of Taweret

Classic Kerma
about 1700–1550 B.C.

Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Kerma, K309


Height x width x depth: 12.5 x 4.2 x 0.3 cm (4 15/16 x 1 5/8 x 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World



This ivory inlay would once have belonged to a wooden fixture such as a funerary bed. It depicts the goddess Taweret, facing left and holding a knife in front of her, wearing a slightly flaring skirt with pleats. Irregularly incised lines and notches add details including the mouth, paw, eye, one pendulous breast, and both the pleats and tie of the skirt. The arm is broken and mended. A large portion of the face has broken off; likely it would have extended forward almost to the knife with a small tab of ivory connecting the two. The surface of the ivory is heavily scratched.

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