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Place of production Thebes (?), Egypt
Date Ptolemaic Period
Object type sculpture
Medium, technique wood, paint

with base: 14.8 cm
base: 4.5 × 9.5 cm

Inventory number 51.242
Collection Egyptian Art
On view Museum of Fine Arts, Basement Floor, Ancient Egypt, Funerary beliefs

The carefully elaborated wooden statuette depicts a human-headed bird standing on a thin rectangular base, representing the ba-form, one of the possible manifestations of the human being after death. The statuette wears a relatively large divine false beard. According to the note made by the collector, the bright colouring is partly due to the retouching process implemented by the Arab trader from whom it was purchased.
According to the Egyptian beliefs, in the afterlife, the ba-aspect is in possession of all vital functions and capacities, among which, however, Egyptian funerary literature evidently highlighted the ability to move fast from one place to another (in sharp contrast to the immobility of the mummified body lying in the tomb), making it possible for the deceased to traverse the netherworld by night, and to leave the tomb to join the celestial route of the sun god by day.
The displayed piece was used in a funerary cult as burial equipment. The hole in the centre of the bottom of the base indicates the way these statuettes were affixed to other wooden objects. Their close connection with funerary furniture reveals the claim to ensure the daily return of the ba-bird into the tomb for it to be able to unify with the mummified body of the deceased.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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