Relief plaque depicting a Ram
Stone relief plaque depicting a Ram, representation of god Amun, or of Banebdjedet of Mendes. The two sets of horns on this exemplary portrayal of a ram reflect ancient Egyptian sculptors’ simultaneous close observation of nature and strict adherence to artistic tradition. The elongated corkscrew horns atop the ram’s head belong to a species that was already long extinct when this plaque was carved.
Rather than abandoning the conventional representation of this animal, artists added a set of curved horns to reflect the appearance of contemporary rams. On similar plaques portions of the original gridded surface remain in the top corners and along the bottom to emphasize the depth of carving. Egyptian artists utilized grids to maintain correct proportions in their work.
In ancient Egypt the ram was revered for its procreative abilities and as a symbol of virility. Its cult has been attested since the beginning of Egyptian civilization. The ram was associated with different deities: Khnum in Elephantine, Amun in Thebes, Heryshaf in Herakleopolis 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.
Ptolemaic Period, ca. 305-30 BC. Now in the Art Institute of Chicago. 1920.251