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Late Period: bronze figures

Background: bronze figures before the Late Period

Metal figures are mentioned already for the Second Dynasty on a fragment of the 'Palermo Stone'. From the Old Kingdom (about 2686-2181 BC) survived the copper figures of Pepy I, found at Hierakonpolis. In the Middle Kingdom (about 2025-1700 BC) some small scale bronze figures, both royal and private, are known (see UC 8253), and equally few metal figures and statues are known from the New Kingdom (about 1550-1069 BC). The Third Intermediate Period saw high quality production on an impressive scale; the statues of some royal women are particulary celebrated, notably that of queen Karomama now preserved in the Louvre.


Bronze figures in the Late Period: mass production

In the Late Period small bronze statues (donations of private persons to temples) were produced in very high numbers. Most such bronzes in museums are without provenance; some were found in deposits (for example the 600 figures found in a wooden box at Abydos, and the thousands retrieved from the Karnak cachette, in the open court south of the great Amun temple). The bronzes seem to have been produced at a number of local centres and then taken to different temples; this, at least, would explain why the bronzes at one site may display a wide range of styles. Roeder 1956 (:542) distinguished Upper, Middle and Lower Egyptian styles especially of Osiris figures, but this hypothesis has yet to be securely established.

Technology: most of the bronzes are cast.

Iconography: different deities may be depicted with the same attributes, and the same deity may be depicted in more than one form, to show different aspects. Often a form is specific in the Late Period to a particular local deity. Therefore form alone is not usually enough to identify a figure in ancient Egyptian formal art: geographical context (provenance) and/or inscription are the more reliable criteria for identification of the name intended by the ancient artist.

cat headed goddess (Bast?)
shrewmouse (the blind vulnerable Horus)
Min and Horus
god with falcon head and double plume (Mont?)
UC 40978
UC 16444, figure of Imhotep
UC 16447


regal child god
regal child god
moon god (Osiris-Iah?)
goddess with red crown (Neit?)
torso of a larger Osiris figure
UC 8051
UC 8038
UC 8074
UC 8006

aegis with head of goddess
sacred bull
jackal on standard (Wepwawet?)
tilapia fish
UC 52906
UC 52837
UC 52985
UC 79092
UC 79281

Further reading:

  • Vassilika 1997 (on bronze sculpture before the Late Period)
  • Roeder 1956 (the standard volume on bronze figures, catalogue of the figures in the Berlin Museum)


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