Figurine of the god Khnum
Upper part of a steatite figurine depicting the god Khnum. The ram headed deity was the embodiment of the creative force and was thought to control the waters of the Nile from caves near the first cataract. Intimately connected to the river and the concept of fertility, the god was often depicted as a potter, in the act of forming and shaping all living things.
The ram was associated with different deities: Khnum in Elephantine, Amun in Thebes, Herishef in Herakelopolis and Banebdjedet in Mendes. Moreover, it was one of the four animal representations of the sun together with the hawk, the lion and the bull. The amulet in the shape of a ram, or part of it, spread widely between 664-525 BC, although some attestations date back to Predynastic Period.
Ancient Egyptians were strongly influenced by the environment around them and the natural forces could find expression in a divine creature. For example Khnum, a ram-headed god, was associated with the Nile and the creation of life.
Linked mainly to the island of Elephantine, which was a natural border between Egypt and Nubia, he could control the flooding of the river from the caves in that region. Khnum often depicted in front of a wheel, shaping a child. His association with the Nile and the fertile ground that “emerges” as the waters retreat may have contributed to his image as a potter, able to shape all the things on his wheel.
Late Period, ca. 664-332 BC. Steatite, 11.2 x 7.3 x 5.8 cm. Now in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. Cat. 513