A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Intriguing Piece of Ancient Egyptian Art

We've been mired in the third millennium long enough, so it's time for a little Ancient Near East. This intriguing piece from the Egyptian New Kingdom is a cosmetics spoon, apparently for applying kohl. It's delicate and elegant, but what to make of the imagery? (Hat tip to Diana Buja; image via this Spanish-language Egyptology site.)

Well, it's a girl or young woman, and a duck. (Maybe a goose? Let's call it a duck.) Since the girl seems to be wearing only a loincloth and no top, let's assume she's swimming. Duck suggests water; prone position suggests swimming. It's an interesting spoon, but a bit hard to figure out the backstory:
  • Is this a really gigantic duck, or a really small woman? If the former there's a 50's sci-fi movie theme here.
  • Is she holding on to the duck because she can't swim?
  • Or is she perhaps pushing the duck?
  • Am I over-analyzing this?
The only one I can answer is the last one: probably yeah. But a fascinating piece. Said to be piece number 1725C, in the Louvre.

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