Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Egyptian Hippopotamus

As I wandered round the British Museum with my camera, I found the Egyptian rooms. Filled with many amazing things, I once again decided for the purpose of my blog I needed to focus. I was struck by this small statue of a hippo, which in some ways looks remarkably modern. And as I went around the various glass cases, I started to notice more and more hippos. 

I do not associate Egyptians with hippos. But apparently they lived on the banks of the River Nile in Ancient Egypt, and were greatly feared, but also respected, which eventually led to them being worshipped.

These are small hippos around the edge of this dish.

Two Egyptian gods were represented by the hippo: Tauret was a goddess of fertility, representing childbirth. Women wore hippo amulets round the neck for  protection. While Seth, a god of violence, who represented the destructive forces of the Nile like excessive flooding. This seems contradictory, but it is easy to understand if you consider that the home of the hippos, the River Nile, was the source of fertility in the land, but could also be destructive.

The hippo was also represented by quartz figures using a process known as faience. These figures were usually used as grave goods, serving as protective figures for one’s journey through the Nile into the afterlife. The faience hippopotami were often decorated with lotus flowers, reeds, and other plants found living along the Nile, and were usually a beautiful turquoise or green color. Unfortunately despite hunting I couldn't find one of these, so here is a link to a photo of one.


  1. Interesting. I like that first small statue.

  2. I had no idea that ancient Egyptians worshipped hippos.

  3. Pretty neat. THANKS for sharing.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Saturday Snapshot

  4. Fascinating. You taught me something and the photos are lovely. Also, any blog post that manages to fit in the word hippopotami in context is definitely a winner, in my book!

  5. I wish I could rub my hand along that first hippo. Bet it was smooth and cool.Here's Mine

  6. Love the British museum! I wouldn't have thought of hippos first thing with Egyptian stuff, but I guess it does make sense. They are so cute looking that the violence they are capable of is always a surprise to me. I can't help but see cuteness when I see them though. :)