This benevolent-looking hippopotamus figurine slips into the marshes, taking on their color and half-engulfed in water plants. Bright-blue Egyptian faience figures of hippopotami such as this were placed in the tombs of high-ranking civil servants toward the end of the Middle Kingdom.
The hippopotamus was associated with the fertility of the Nile mud or silt. The hippopotamus goddess Taweret was, moreover, a protector goddess of women and newly born children. Figurines of her were used as amulets to drive away danger.
Animals are creatures to which the ancient Egyptians always paid great attention and love. This attitude shines through not only in the myriad scenes depicted in tombs and temples where animals, rich in detail and color, make scenes of everyday life even more realistic and vivid, but also in the number of hieroglyphs representing them. These signs, despite the necessary standardization required by a graphic code, are not lacking in such meticulous detail that they have often enabled scholars to identify the species represented.
Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, ca. 1991-1802 BC. Made of Egyptian faience. Now in the Louvre, Paris. E 7709