Plaque of a Woman Giving Birth

This plaque depicts a woman giving birth on the birthing-chair, being assisted by two women with Hathor heads and crowns; the Hathor crown consists of two horns with the sun disk between them and tall plumes.

The figures of the women are rendered in frontal view, and are nearly three-dimensional. They are carved in sunken-relief, which was characteristic of the Ptolemaic Period. The stone was placed as an ex-voto, most probably by a pious person, at the temple of Hathor in Dendera, to thank the goddess for helping in a confinement.

Plaque of a Woman Giving Birth. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 40627
Plaque of a Woman Giving Birth. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 40627

Hathor was worshiped at her main cult center at Dendera and in other places in Egypt. She was later identified with the Greek goddess Aphrodite. She acted as nurse and was the patroness of a pregnant woman in the confinement chamber.

Hathor was a significant deity associated with love, beauty, music, and fertility. Earrings, including golden ones, were commonly worn by both men and women in ancient Egyptian society as a symbol of wealth and status.

In the Tale of the Doomed Prince, seven Hathors (goddesses, who pronounce the fate of each child at birth) were mentioned in the context of protecting the newly born prince. His father, afraid for his son’s safety, builds his son an isolated palace in the mountains, so as to keep him away from danger.

Ptolemaic Period, ca. 305-30 BC. Carved limestone. From Dendera Temple Complex. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 40627