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Gallery Text

This stele combines a "cippus of Horus" with a representation of the hippopotamus goddess Taweret. It is topped by the grotesque face of the protective dwarf god Bes. Horus the Child, with a sidelock indicating his young age, stands on two crocodiles and subdues other wild animals: snakes, scorpion, gazelle, and lion. He is flanked by his mother, Isis, and the falcon-headed Horus. In the lower register appears a fierce, pregnant hippopotamus with pendulous breasts and a crocodile’s tail. This is Taweret, who protected expectant mothers and young children. The Horus cippus occurred both as a stone stele and in amulet form and was normally inscribed with spells protecting against snake bites and scorpion stings. Although the spells are missing here, the stele need not have been ineffective. It is thought that the cippi were rubbed and that the water poured over them was drunk or applied for curative purposes.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Magical Stele
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Stele with Human and Divine Figures
Work Type
26th-31st dynasty, c. 664-332 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Late Period
Persistent Link


Level 3, Room 3740, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Ancient Egypt: Art for Eternity
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Physical Descriptions

28.2 x 15 x 4 cm (11 1/8 x 5 7/8 x 1 9/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Gerhardt Liebmann, New York, NY, (by 1989), bequest; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1991.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Gerhardt Liebmann
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Parallel sided stele with oval top, mounted by head of Bes in the round. Bes's head has small, flat cap-like top, large projecting relief ears, and beard cut off horizontally just below the chin. The top of the stele curves upward on either side to meet the Bes Head. A stepped relief element looking like the ends of a garment flank the head of Bes. The figural reliefs on the stele occur in two registers.

The upper register depicts a centrally placed nude male figure facing to the right, standing on a base carved with two small crocodiles. His head is covered with a closely fitting coiffeur or cap ending in a curl which in turn rests upon a curving feature around the neck that may be a pectoral. The figure grasps two serpents in each hand; with the right he grasps the head or horns of a small bovine figure, perhaps a goat or antelope. With his left hand he grasps a scorpion and a small lion by their tails in addition to the two snakes which rise symmetrically upward with their heads curved outward on either side. To the right of this figure stands a hawk headed deity, perhaps Horus. He grasps a waz scepter in his right hand and an ankh in his left. He wears a wig whose ends hand downward over a pectoral. He wears both the crowns of upper and Lower Egypt. A short belted kilt extends from the waist down to just above his knees. There is a streamer or tail-like tip of a belt that extends along the left leg all the way to the ground line. On the left side stands a goddess, feet together wearing a long tight garment that ends just above her ankles. She faces to the right toward the central standing figure. She wears a wig whose lock extends in relief from just below her ear to past her pectoral. A solar disc cradled in horns rises from a low platform on her head. There seems to be a uraeus (cobra) projecting from the top of her forehead. Her ear and frontal eye are carefully carved in relief. She holds an upright scepter with flairing tip in her left hand and an ankh held downward in her right. She may be the goddess Hathor.
Intact. Sides and back marked by chisel cuts.

The lower register depicts two figures in relief facing each other rendered in much larger scale than those in the upper register. A block like projection from the ground line register extends downward in relief. It has been cut away on the right to outline the head and censer held by the right hand figure. The figures that face each other are the standing hippotamus goddess demon Tauert, protectress of women in childbirth. Tauert places her right paw on an upright curving object of unknown character. A pointed object appears to extend vertically upward from her paw. Her mane extends vertically all the way down her back and widens out into a tail whose pointed tip touches the bottom of the relief. To her right a male figure with left foot advanced stands before her extending in his left hand a censer with conical bowl for incense and handle that ends in a curved duck's head. His downward curving left arm holds what appears to be a stone vase with flat top and bottom. A lotus branch with open blossom appears to float in front of it.

Rising from the ground line is a stand with concave sides upon which rests an oval form that looks like an ostrich egg, a small snakehead projects from its upper left side. The offering man has an elongated, rounded bald head, carefully carved ear, frontal eye, nose and mouth. The top of his upper garment is carefully set off from this neck. A diagonal groove at the level of the hips suggests some kind of fastening at the middle of the body. A curving incised line descends to just below the knee to the garment covering the right leg. The skirt of the garment projects beyond the legs and ends in a horizontal line just above the ankles.

David G. Mitten

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 3740 Egyptian, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at