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ID number:  ECM 822
Named collection:  The Eton Myers Collection
Title / Object name:  Nubian style head
Object type:  Decorative Art
Culture:  Egyptian
Date made:  25th Dynasty (c. 747 - 656 BC)
Collector:  Myers, William Joseph
Materials:  Faience (blue)
Measurements:  overall: 5.16 cm x 4.24 cm x 4.01 cm (H x W x D)
Provenance:  Unknown

Carefully modelled and carved head in Egyptian blue faience displaying stereotypical Nubian features. The head is broken from the neck down, but was most likely once part of a standing figure. The sex of the individual is difficult to ascertain, although other similar examples would imply a female identity. The heavy wig that falls in four locks is also typical of Nubian depictions. A monkey sits on each shoulder of the individual, highlighted by black painted stripes across their bodies. A number of piercings would have once held metal rings, these holes can be found in the ears, in the front lock of hair and through the necks of the monkeys. A large suspension lug can be found at the back of the neck indicating that it was once suspended - most probably in some kind of ritualistic context. It has been suggested that the object may have been manufactured in the Delta, possibly in workshops known from Tanis or Bubastis (Reeves 2008: 76).

Bibliography:  Spurr, S., Reeves, N., and Quirke, S. 1999. Egyptian Art at Eton College: Selections from the Myers Museum. Windsor and New York (page 54, Entry No. 82).

Reeves, N. (ed.) 2008. Egyptian Art at Eton College and Durham University: Catalogue of a loan exhibition to Japan, 24 February-30 November 2008. With contributions from C. Barclay, T. Hardwick, S. Quirke, N. Reeves, J. Ruffle,
H. Schneider, and S. Spurr. (Page 76, Entry No. 76).

Notes:  The identity of the individual depicted in ECM 822 is difficult to ascertain, however the iconography preserved on this object and two known parallels may indicate that this could be the head of a goddess. Both 1984.168 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and 1951.131 (National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh) depict women with characteristic, stereotypical Nubian style features, both accompanied by monkeys. These features, along with the use of body piercings, can also be found on rattles dated to the 26th Dynasty (c. 664 – 525 BC) that show the goddess Beset nursing her son, Bes. It is clear that Beset had a role in domestic religion as a protector of infants during childhood, and it is this action that seems to be shown in both the 25th and 26th Dynasty objects. In the example from the National Museum of Scotland, Beset can even be seen suckling a monkey, an animal that Bes is likened to in spells.

Whether the identity of Beset can confidently be assigned to ECM 822, or whether the iconography of this and similar objects was simply adopted by Beset is difficult to tell. However, further research about the development of Beset’s iconography may assist in making this assumption, and also with regard to the origin of the Bes image in Egyptian art.

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Myers, William Joseph
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