Ivory wand

Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 13
1783–about 1640 B.C.

Object Place: Egypt, Said to be from Naqada


Length x width: 35 x 4 cm (13 3/4 x 1 9/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery (Gallery 119)


The Ancient World


Religious and cult objects

Carved from hippopotamus ivory, this wand is decorated on one side with a procession of both real and fantastical animals. These figures include a cat, frog, griffin, composite felines, the goddess Taweret, and a jackal-headed god. Such figures are customarily identified as apotropaic, or protective beings, all carrying knives to stress this function. There is a narrow line border along the sides with a periodic notched pattern. The procession of figures is flanked by a large lotus flower at the pointed side of the wand and a panther (?) head at the rounded end.

Ivory wands were particularly popular as of the Middle Kingdom. They were associated especially with expectant mothers and newborns at the time of childbirth, a very tense and dangerous time for both and ancient times. Ethnographic parallels suggest such items may have been held and/or waved by a mother during labor to ward off real dangers to babies such as snakes and scorpions, as well as malevolent supernatural forces that might complicate delivery and the survival of mother and child.

This wand is complete but in fragments.


Said to be from Naqada. 1903: purchased for the MFA in Qena, Egypt from Ghirgas by Albert M. Lythgoe for £2. Acquired with funds from the Emily Esther Sears Fund.
(Accession Date: January 1, 1903)

Credit Line

Emily Esther Sears Fund