Statuette of God Thoth as a Baboon


Image license: CC-BY

About

This little statue of a baboon with a strong connection to ritual and spirituality is believed to date back to the Ramesside period of ancient Egypt, making it at least 3000 years old.

The statuette is a mottled pale yellow in colour, though it may once have been brightly painted. It is made of limestone and has been mounted on a small block of wood which keeps it upright.  The original base is now lost. Size wise, this statuette is 19cm high and 12cm by 12cm wide.

The two main features of note are the squatting posture of the baboon and the fact that it has a circular hole in the head.

The hole was drilled into the top of the head, towards the forehead, in a central position, suggesting that the baboon once wore some kind of a headdress.

The face is typical of a real baboon, with a large protruding muzzle or snout below a pair of narrowly placed eyes, or rather, two eye sockets separated by a thin bridge. It is possible that the eye sockets once contained gems to represent the eyes.

The face is looking downwards, especially the prominent snout. Two fat cheeks complete the face, with a suggestion of an ear on each side. .

The baboon is squatting down with its forearms resting neatly on its knees. This close arrangement of the limbs and body gives the statuette quite a compact profile. One of the fore-paws has been broken off and there is a shallow hole in the snout.

Animals were very important to the ancient Egyptians, who believed that their gods could take the form of cats, birds and other creatures. Here we have the god Thoth who often took the form of a baboon.  He could also be represented as an ibis-headed man. 

Thoth was worshipped throughout Egypt as a moon god and was the patron of knowledge, science, mathematics, writing and healing.  He was believed to have stolen some of the light of the moon from the chief moon god Khonsu.

Several mummified baboons in the same pose as this statue have been found arranged in galleries in the catacombs at Tuna el Gebel in Middle Egypt, suggesting a strong devotion there to the cult of Thoth. Various other images of Thoth as a baboon, both large and small, have been found throughout Egypt.

In collection(s): Seeing without Sight religion

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