Statuette of a dignitary presenting a naos

The dignitary is shown in this statuette offering an altar with the head of a ram, the sacred animal of Amun-Re, the main god of Thebes and the New Kingdom. Steatite is a soft, easy to carve stone, which hardens and turns black when baked in a closed kiln.

The man wears the so called “gold double collar of reward” often called the Shebyu collar, a decoration granted by the king to especially well-deserving subjects. The facial features, with almond-shaped elongated eyes and strongly arched eyebrows, suggest a date in the reign of Amenhotep III.

Statuette of a dignitary presenting a naos topped by a ram’s head
Statuette of a dignitary presenting a naos topped by a ram’s head

From the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC), and especially during the Late Period (664-332 BC), we find individuals holding alter or a small temple (naos) containing a divine statue. They are the so-called ‘naophorous statue’: this way, the dedicator sought to establish a direct relationship with the deities.

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.

New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1391-1353 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. Cat. 3035