Hedgehog Cosmetic Pot
This small faience vessel in the shape of a hedgehog was most likely a perfume or cosmetic vessel. Texts and images tell us that both men and women wore eye makeup and applied perfume.
Perfume was associated with the divine in ancient Egypt and the presence of a deity is sometimes signaled by a sweet smell in Egyptian texts. This charming vessel is one of many in different shapes and sizes representing the hedgehog, a creature that lived in the deserts of Egypt.
Hedgehogs were eaten in ancient Egypt but it seems they may have had a greater significance as their images are often included in Old Kingdom tomb scenes. Some small sculptures are found in the Middle Kingdom, and their form is exploited in the New Kingdom for cosmetic vessels, pottery, and jewelry.
It has been suggested that the hedgehog has an apotropaic character because of its ability to curl up in a ball and protect the vulnerable parts of its body when danger approached. Also, due to their sharp needles, hedgehogs were largely immune to the bites of venomous creatures such as snakes or scorpions.
While this vessel may draw on the aforementioned associations of the creature it is also likely that the Egyptians simply enjoyed the decorative possibilities of the hedgehog form and therefore incorporated it into their vessel design.
Late Period, 26th Dynasty or early Ptolemaic Period, ca. 664-180 BC. Now in the Michael Carlos Museum. 2004.051.002