New Light on the God Bes

By and
Taylor Alessio
Taylor Alessio, Johns Hopkins University class of 2016, is an Art History Major with a minor in the Program for Museums and Society. Although not an archaeology major, Taylor is drawn to materials and has always had an interest in ancient cultures and their art.

stampsealNew Light on the God Bes: A Stamp Seal in the JHU Archaeological Museum

This stamp seal (FIC. 07. 163) in the Johns Hopkins Archeological Museum, was highly interesting to examine.  Originally thought to be carved of bone, technical analysis revealed the seal was actually formed of bright blue faience.  Microscopic, physical, and XRF analyses were carried out, and the results will be reported. Iconographic analysis was also conducted. The combination of Levantine and Egyptian motifs compounded the problem of the seal’s dating.  On the front, in high relief, is the Tilapia Nilotica fish and on the back, a bandy-legged Bes wearing a feather-like headdress.  The use of these images in tandem suggests that the seal may have been a symbol of fertility used during life or in a funerary context. This object’s iconography, style, and physical properties defined its date, and ultimately, the seal itself provides intriguing evidence for an earlier date for the crowned Bes originated than the New Kingdom period, perhaps due to a coalescence of iconography from Egypt and the greater Levant during the Hyksos Period.

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