Statuette of Thot as Ibis

Unknown600 BC - 500 BC

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

Ibis was the sacred animal of the deity Thot, who was also venerated in the shape of a baboon. Thot embodied wisdom and the art of writing; he was also the patron of scribes. As the messenger of the gods he announced to the queen the birth of her divine child. At the Weighing of the Heart, which takes place in the Hall of Osiris, it is Thot who records the result and informs Osiris. The myth also tells how Toth mediated in the battle between Horus and Seth and who healed their wounds. The veneration of ibises was first recorded in the 19th Dynasty, but most of the written references to this cult date from the Ptolemaic Period. Sacred ibises were kept in temples all over Egypt, but the god’s main sanctuary was located at Hermopolis Magna in central Egypt. But there were also important sanctuaries at Saqqara, Abydos and Kom Ombo. Thousands of ibis mummies were buried at each of them: over 500.000 were found in Saqqara alone. These mummified ibises were venerated as incarnations of the god Thot. Votive statues like this one were also popular. Note the outstanding naturalistic rendering of this bird. Its body is made of wood covered with fine white plaster. Its head bearing the atef-crown, long neck, tail feathers and legs were all cast in silver. The ibis’ eyes, inlaid in black glass and stucco, seem to bring the creature to life. The atef-crown was reserved for the pharaoh and Osiris; here, it consists of two entwined horns of a ram, three bound sheaves of reed with sun-disks, two ostrich feathers and two Uraeus. © Regina Hölzl, Meisterwerke der Ägyptisch-Orientalischen Sammlung, Wien 2007.


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