The British Museum
- Ancient Egypt
- The tomb-chapel of Nebamun
- Paintings from the Tomb-chapel of Nebamun
- A bottle and a toy: Objects from daily life
- Hunefer, Book of the Dead
- The Rosetta Stone
- History uncovered in conserving the Rosetta Stone
- Egyptian mummy portraits
- Ancient Egyptian coffin prepared for the Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum
- Ancient Egyptian coffin mask conserved for the Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum
- An ancient Egyptian scribal palette in the Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum
- Ancient Egyptian baboon deity conserved for the Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum
- Ancient Egyptian papyrus in the Book of the Dead Exhibition
- Ancient Egyptian coffin panel prepared for the Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum
- Gebelein Man: virtual autopsy, exploring a natural mummy from early Egypt
The wall paintings from Nebamun's tomb-chapel show an idealized vision of daily ancient Egyptian life. Much less is known about the lives of the majority of society. The study of human remains in poor cemeteries is often the only way of learning about the short lives of most ancient Egyptians. Many of the objects belonged to the wealthy and survived only because they were buried in tombs. They provide a glimpse of these people’s lavish lifestyles.
Glass bottle in the form of a fish
Glass vessels seem to have been primarily functional rather than ritual objects; their main use was as containers for cosmetics or precious oils. However, in this case the fish design might hint at some further meaning, complementing its beauty as an elite personal item.
The fish represented is a Nile tilapia fish which hatches and shelters her young in her mouth. The emergence of the live offspring from the tilapia's mouth led to the fish being used as a symbol of rebirth and regeneration, frequently worn as an amulet.
This is the most complete and spectacular example of several surviving fish-shaped glass vessels made around this period. It was found under the floor in a house at Tell el-Amarna, where it may have been buried by its owner.
Glass vessels from the New Kingdom (1550-1070 B.C.E.) are highly colorful objects, and glass was often used as a more versatile and less expensive substitute for semiprecious stones. This fish was made by trailing molten glass over a core made of a clay mixture. Next, colored rods of glass were wrapped around the body and dragged with a tool to create a fish-scale pattern. The body was then smoothed, the eyes and fins added and the core scraped out.
Wooden toy cat
Wooden toy cat
Cats may have been kept as pets as early as the fourth millennium B.C.E. Two wild species of cat lived in Egypt, the jungle cat and the African wild cat. By the late first millennium B.C.E. cats were bred on an industrial scale for use in the cult of the cat goddess Bastet.
From the Twelfth Dynasty, cats are shown in tomb decoration, seated beneath the chair of the deceased or accompanying him on a hunt in the marshes. There is a fine example of the latter type of scene in the tomb of Nebamun, showing a ginger cat catching birds in its mouth and with all four paws at the same time. Such hunting scenes may also represent the struggle between civilized humans and the forces of chaos, shown as wild fowl.
The cat had a similar role on the divine plane. In the funerary text called the Litany of Re, the sun god appears as a cat and battles the snake Apep. This serpent, a manifestation of the forces of chaos, attacked the solar boat as it passed through the night sky. The god overcame Apep by cutting him in two with a knife, allowing the sun to continue its journey to be reborn at dawn.
R.M. and J.J. Janssen, Growing up in Ancient Egypt (London, The Rubicon Press, 1990).
M. Stead, Egyptian life (London, The British Museum Press, 1986).
I. Shaw and P. Nicholson (eds.), British Museum dictionary of Ancient Egypt(London, The British Museum Press, 1995).
A.P. Kozloff and B.M. Bryan, Egypts dazzling sun: Amenhotep III and History World (Cleveland Museum of Art, 1992)
E.R. Russmann,Eternal Egypt: masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum (University of California Press, 2001).
J.D. Cooney, Catalogue of Egyptian antiqu-3 (London, The British Museum Press, 1976).
S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum Book of Ancient Egypt (London, The British Museum Press, 1992).
© Trustees of the British Museum
Want to join the conversation?
- What on earth were they doing with those cats that they needed to be bred 'on an indurstrial scale'?!(19 votes)
- The cult of Bastet had as a core part of their ceremonies the embalming of cats. More than 300,000 mummified cats were discovered when Bast's temple at Per-Bast was excavated (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastet).(11 votes)
- Did the ancient Egyptians domesticate dogs to keep as pets as well or just cats?(12 votes)
- Why didn't they actually tell us anything about the toy cat? They went off on a tangent about what cats symbolized, but we never actually heard anything specific about that toy cat. where was it found? it's wood and wood rarely survives in Egypt, so how did this manage to survive? Were there other toys found with it? etc.(15 votes)
- Are Re and Ra the same deity?(4 votes)
- Why can't they keep birds as well as dogs or cats?(1 vote)
- I suspect that if your culture worships cats, the word for 'bird' is synonymous with the word for 'cat food', 'cat toy', or both.(2 votes)
- They mentioned that the Fish Shape Glass Vessel had been buried by its owner for some years at the Tell-El-Amarna. Where would this place be located?(1 vote)
- Tell el-Amarna, also spelled Tall al-Amarna or Tall al-ʿAmarīnah, site of the ruins and tombs of the city of Akhetaton (“Horizon of Aton”) in Upper Egypt, https://www.britannica.com/place/Tell-el-Amarna(1 vote)
- Would only the wealthier families have been able to afford toys for their spawns or were they economical enough for lower class kids?(1 vote)
- The very poor probably did not, but I think most children would have, although the toys would not be nearly as nice.(1 vote)
- it sais somebody cut somebody in half so the sun could re continue its journey but why is killing somebody helping the sun with its journey?... And i know cats were goddeses but why were they so important what made them so special other than them being cute!? =^=(1 vote)
- Egyptians thought sacrafice would help the sun? and cats were so important because
The cat had a similar role on the divine plane. In the funerary text called the Litany of Re, the sun god appears as a cat and battles the snake Apep. This serpent, a manifestation of the forces of chaos, attacked the solar boat as it passed through the night sky. The god overcame Apep by cutting him in two with a knife, allowing the sun to continue its journey to be reborn at dawn.(1 vote)
- how do they know that the new kingdom was in 1550-1070 B.C.E.
how could the Egyptians make different colors on the glass fish and different designs(0 votes)
- We know that the new kingdom was in 1550-1070 because they had new pharaohs and more structures they built than just pyramids , like a sphinx.(1 vote)