June 6, 2009

I was in Quebec city for a conference last week, and got an opportunity to slip into the museum there for a quick visit before closing one evening. I wanted to see the Egyptian mummy display they advertised, and was hoping to see one of Sekhmet's statues. Much to my amazement, one of the displays held a relatively crude terracotta goddess figure. Given the technical and artistic skill typical of the grave goods placed with mummies, this goddess figure was very rough and naive. It reminded me of the headstones I have seen on occasion in local graveyards, handcrafted by the grieving spouse from cement and steel plate.

The goddess image was about 4 inches long, with no breasts (unlike most 'Venus' figures), but she was very clearly given long curly hair and ears or earrings. The fingers were slashes cut into the end of the arm, as were the marks that form the pubic triangle. The slashes looked like they were made with a long bladed knife. The pubic area was filled with rows of dots and she had a squarish mound on the tummy area that she was kind of holding, although her fingers didn't reach that far. Archeological theory says that these were intended to represent rebirth in the afterlife, but it seems to me more like a form of sympatheic magic intended to ensure the deceased is reincarnated/reborn to a wealthy mother (hence the very wide hips and the earrings). The grave was estimated to be around 2040 to 1640 BC.

I was quite excited to finally see one of these 'goddess' images in person, although she was very different from anything I had seen before or expected to see associated with mummies. Although she was made from terracotta, I think I will have to try making one of my own.


creative side said...

Making one of your own sounds like fun. It's nice you had your sketch book with you. I always travel with one also.

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