A Golden Statuette

In each issue of Ancient Egypt magazine, Dr Campbell Price describes a key artefact from Egyptology collections around the world. His choice for AE 135 is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA).

Image: MMA

One of the most striking pieces from the 26,000-strong Egypt and Sudan collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, this well-preserved divine image has been widely pictured. Often named the ‘Carnarvon Amun’, the statuette was purchased – probably through the agency of Howard Carter – by Lord Carnarvon in 1917, five years before the pair made the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun.

Perhaps a harbinger of that spectacular find, this piece is made from solid gold and depicts the Theban god Amun. Amun came to prominence at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom, and from the New Kingdom onwards was arguably the most important god in the Egyptian pantheon. Its form and material make it likely that it is a rare survival of a cult statue – a focal image of the god for rituals, rather than one of a series of votive images of divinities.

The god holds the curved sword or khepesh, as is specified in some New Kingdom texts for the creation of cultic images, with an ankh in his other hand. He wears the simple archaic kilt of divinities, and Amun’s typical crown but lacking its tall plumes. The face shows the distinctive soft features of the Third Intermediate Period, leading to speculation about the possible origin of this piece at Tanis, Amun’s northern capital during the Twenty-first and Twenty-second Dynasties. Unfortunately, like many pieces bought on the open market, the archaeological context of this object is unknown.

Dr Campbell Price is Curator of Egypt and Sudan at Manchester Museum, part of the University of Manchester. He is also Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Egypt Exploration Society and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool.