The God of War

By
Lillie Shelton
Lillie Shelton is currently a Materials Science and Engineering major who plans to concentrate on biomaterials. She is a part of the Johns Hopkins class of 2021.
FIC_07_427_front

Late Period (ca. 722-332 BCE), Copper alloy, H. 11.1 cm, W. 2.3 cm, D. 3.6 cm, Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, FIC.07.427

Small in size, but impressive in detail, this metal statuette depicts a falcon-headed deity in the traditional ancient Egyptian striding pose, with the right foot extended forward. The statuette is a dark greyish metal with hints of brown and copper tones throughout; this statuette is most likely a mix of metals, presumably a copper alloy. One of the most prominent features of the statuette is its headdress: a sun disk accompanied by two uraei and topped with twin plumes. The shaping of the headdress is organic; the right plume is a bit shorter and thicker than the left, and the left plume is slightly warped towards the middle.  The torso of the statuette has very defined musculature with broad shoulders and a small waist. The legs are well toned with defined knees and calf muscles.

Based on the distinct headdress of this statuette, it is clear that this falcon-headed deity is the god Montu. Montu was a war god, who was predominantly worshipped in Thebes. Although he was associated with war, a form of chaos, or isfet, the Egyptians used his image to bring about order, or maat, in times of war and to ensure a successful victory. Thus, Montu was a balancing force between these two conflicting aspects of life and served as a symbol of duality. Montu helped protect and ensured the security of the ancient Egyptian state.

As for the date of this piece, it seems to be a work of the Late Period. The use of metal as a medium exploded in later periods. As stated before, the statuette is probably copper alloy, a material commonly used during the Late Period. At this time, sculptors often employed slight degrees of asymmetry as well This statuette possesses asymmetry in the headdress, the focal point of the piece. Late Period sculptors also focused less on mechanically sculpting statues and instead allowed for more free modeling. In this statuette, the different parts of the torso are well defined and even have more polish than other parts of the figure, and the limbs are relatively proportional to the rest of the body. This treatment makes the figure look more realistic and natural.

With this date in mind, this was likely a votive. Votives were objects that served as dedications or offerings to the gods. Individuals paid to have votives installed in temples, which would ensure benefits to the dedicator. The use of votives increased towards the end of the New Kingdom and skyrocketed during the Late Period. In fact, during the Late Period, a large number of statues were designated for use in the temple as votives. Additionally, votives were often copper alloy. This statue depicts a deity, which further supports the conclusion that it originally had a religious purpose. Based on this, someone probably commissioned this statuette as a votive, in the hopes of reaping the benefits of the temple cult.

References:

Bothmer, Bernard. Egyptian Sculpture of the Late Period: 700 B.C. to A. D. 100. New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1960.

David, Rosalie. Religion and Magic in Ancient Egypt. New York: Penguin Books, 2002.

Hill, Marsha. “Art and Influence in Temple Images.” In Gifts for the Gods: Images from Egyptian Temples, edited by Marsha Hill and Deborah Schorsch, 3-6. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007.

Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. New York: Thames & Hudson Inc., 2003.