March 13, 2007
Land of the Pharoahs: NELC 062
In ancient Egypt, the dog-faced baboon was an important symbol.
To the average
Egyptian, seeing a baboon featured in a piece of artwork in a temple, tomb, or home would
invoke several, possibly intertwining associations.
During the New Kingdom, two of the
central invocations of the dog-headed baboon were its associations with Re, a sun god, and
Thoth, god of scribes and divine wisdom.
The piece I chose was a basalt statue of a cynocephalus ("dog-headed") baboon
The baboon is depicted with a pectoral around its neck inscribed with the name of
Ramses III, dating it to around the time of his reign, 1182-1151 BCE, during the 20th
dynasty of the New Kingdom (museum inscription).
The missing arms, according to the
museum inscription, were probably raised in adoration of the sun.
The statue stands about 2-
3 feet high.
The genitals of the baboon are partially intact, the remainder probably cracked
Large, round protrusions to either side of the head represent the tufts of fur on the heads
common to some types of baboons.
The face of the statue is dog-like in appearance.
wavy, scaly texture on the sides of the statue seems to represent fur on the body.
The basalt that was used to make this statue is a type of igneous rock, formed from
the crystallization of molten rock of volcanic lava flows.
Among other igneous rocks used
by the ancient Egyptians, the basalt came from the Faiyum in the Western Desert, while other
igneous rocks such as diorite were quarried from the Eastern Desert.
Basalt was used mainly
in pyramid capstones of the Old and Middle Kingdoms, temple pavements of the Old
Kingdom, Late Period Sarcophagi, and statues of any size in the Late through Roman
Ramses III, considered the last significant king of the New Kingdom, ruled for 65
His reign was peaceful until the fifth year, and in that time the king began his