Ivory cosmetic box in the shape of a fish


British Museum

British Museum

This ivory fish-shaped cosmetic box was found inside a bronze bowl which had been strapped, using Egyptian linen, to the genitals of a body found in a grave at Tell es-Sa'idiyeh. Most unusually, the body had been placed face down in the grave, and over the back of the skull were found the skeletons of three fishes. The site of Tell es-Sa'idiyeh controlled a shallow ford across the river Jordan. In the thirteenth century it was under Egyptian control. This was the final phase of Egypt's domination of the Levant. Most of the graves at Sa'idiyeh consist of simple, sub-rectangular pits, but the items found in them either show strong Egyptian influence or are purely Egyptian. This Egyptian influence helps explain some of the unusual burial practices. In several instances a bowl made of pottery, or more usually of bronze, had been placed either over the face or sometimes, as here, the genitals, of the individual buried. The majority of the bronze objects from the graves were found to be covered in textile remains, preserved by mineralization through the corrosion of the metal. The textile proved to be Egyptian linen. In some instances the evidence would suggest that the objects had been wrapped in cloth and deposited separately, but in others it is clear that they had been incorporated into a tight binding around the body. This is clearly related to the Egyptian practice of mummification, and indeed in a few cases a black resinous material covered the bones, presumably as a way of preserving the body.

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  • Title: Ivory cosmetic box in the shape of a fish
  • Date Created: -1250/-1150
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 11.50cm; Width: 5.00cm; Thickness: 1.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: fish
  • Registration number: 1987,0727.138
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Tell es-Sa'idiyeh
  • Period/culture: Late Bronze Age III
  • Material: ivory
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Excavated by Tubb, Jonathan Nicholas


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