Statuette of a hippopotamus at The Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Welcome to “Art, Culture & Books” with me Anthony King. Today I’ll be taking you on a tour of a striking object, which in my opinion is a standout – The Statuette of a hippopotamus at The Egyptian Museum in Cairo from the 2nd intermediate period and found in Thebes. In Ancient Egyptian culture, Hippopotami were associated with life, regeneration, and rebirth. This faience which means glazed ceramic ware, is a highlight in the museum, in my opinion. For those familiar with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, this might look very familiar and similar to “William the Hippo” which serves as an informal mascot of the museum.

As always, I take all the photos and videos myself on location, ensuring you get an up-close and personal view of the fascinating world of art and culture. I’ll be popping in and out with commentary as this video progresses but for now let’s take a close up look.

In ancient Egypt, faience Hippopotamus statuettes held symbolic significance. Commonly known as “hippopotamus figurines,” they were made from faience, a type of ceramic. The symbolism associated with these figurines was primarily linked to the protective and evil-warding qualities attributed to the hippopotamus in Egyptian culture.

The hippopotamus, considered a dangerous creature due to its aggressive nature and association with the vital Nile River, was believed to pose threats to agriculture and daily life. Wearing or possessing faience hippopotamus figurines was thought to provide protection against malevolent forces, particularly in childbirth and fertility.

These statuettes were often placed in tombs to protect the deceased in the afterlife and were also found in households, believed to safeguard families and their possessions from harm. An Egyptian faience statuette of a hippopotamus, with lily plants symbolizing regeneration in the afterlife, was a popular grave item placed near the mummy in coffins. The statuette depicted plants and animals from the hippo’s marshy habitat, and the king’s ritual hippopotamus hunt represented victory over primordial chaos.

By Anthony King (c)