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Work Statuette of the crocodile-headed god Sobek

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs

Statuette of the crocodile-headed god Sobek

© 2005 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
Religious and funerary beliefs

Author(s):
Chloé Ragazzoli

During the Late Period (664-332 BC), offerings to the gods were frequently made in the form of their image (or that of their animal appearance) in bronze. The dedication on the plinth of this lovely statuette informs us that it is Sobek of Shedet-Crocodilopolis. The Faiyum was the prime domain of this god, who took on the fearsome appearance of the crocodile, honored throughout Egypt as a sacred animal.

A universal god whose center of worhsip was the Faiyum

The crocodile was always worshipped in Egypt, as is indicated by its presence on a seal of King Narmer. The popularity of its cult may have stemmed from its opposing and complementary aspects: an evil creature identified with the god Seth, and a beneficent mythological power, as evidenced by the great hymn to Sobek, god of the city of Shedet, whom this delightful statuette honors. The crocodile god was worshipped in sanctuaries all along the Nile Valley, but the Faiyum region, centered around a great lake (supplied by a branch of the Nile), was always his prime domain - the Greeks even renamed Shedet "Crocodilopolis".

A hybrid creature

This statuette of Sobek striding is partly anthropomorphic: he has a human body, and a crocodile's head - a hybrid representation that indicates his divine nature. A shoulder-length wig hides the connection between these two very different parts. Sobek is barefoot and barechested, but is wearing a short kilt that accentuates the curve of his buttocks. He also has royal attributes: the Double Crown (or "pschent"), and the uraeus cobra over his forehead. There are holes in his hands where he once held a cane (in the left hand) and a scepter (in the right). The fact that Sobek was identified with Horus (the other god of Shedet) explains these royal attributes.
The quality of this work is reflected in the fine carving, visible musculature, delicate teardrop-shaped navel, and silver-plated nails. The flourishing art of the bronze statuette stemmed from the long tradition of Egyptian statuary.

Evidence for the date and provenance of an ex-voto

There are many bronze statuettes such as this in the museum collection, and it is difficult to establish their provenance. However, we know that this was one of the pilgrimage offerings that were common during the Late Period, and it very probably came from the Faiyum. The plinth bears an inscription referring to the identity both of the god and of the dedicator. The offering was addressed to Sobek of Shedet --Horus-who-dwells-in-Shedet, Master of Eternity, endowed with life and health, by Payu, son of Padiiset, whose beautiful name is Ankhpsammetichus, born to the mistress of the house of Mutemakhet. The dedicator's "beautiful name" (i.e. his nickname) includes that of Psammetichus, which was the name of two of the pharaohs of this dynasty. A study has shown that these names were characteristic of the reign of Psammetichus II; this work can therefore be dated to around 595-589 BC.

Bibliography

- YOYOTTE J., Les Trésors des Pharaons, Genève, 1968, p. 202-203.

- AUBERT J. F., AUBERT L., Bronzes et Or égyptiens, Paris, 2001.

Technical description

  • Statuette of the crocodile-headed god Sobek

    Late Period, 26th Dynasty, reign of Psammetichus II (595-589 BC)

  • Bronze

    H. 29.80 cm; D. 18 cm

  • Purchased 1899

    E 10782

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    The gods and magic
    Room 18

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