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Terracotta figurine of the Egyptian god Bes

-600/-450

British Museum

British Museum

The Egyptian dwarf god Bes makes his first appearance in Cyprus in the Late Bronze Age in representations that are evidently directly inspired by Egypt. In the Iron Age (from 1050 BC) other demons and gods of foreign origin were introduced, and the Cypriots were inclined to confuse the various types so that 'Bes' often borrows features characteristic of others. Cypriot Bes appears to have had an apotropaic function: serving as a means to ward off evil. The worship of Bes seems to have been introduced to Cyprus along with other originally Egyptian cults by the Phoenicians early in the Archaic period (about 850-475 BC). This was before the island fell under Egyptian control or influence about 570-526/5 BC. In Egypt Bes at his most typical appears frontal and squatting. He is naked, apart from a lion-skin, whose tail is usually visible between his legs. His hands rest on his thighs and his features are normally grotesque, animal rather than human. He is usually bearded and has mane-like hair. From the time of the New Kingdom he usually wears a feather crown and in the Saite period (663-525 BC) his square cut-beard is on occasion replaced by a spiral beard, and these two versions became interchangeable. This terracotta figurine is, therefore, in the typical pose of Egyptian Bes, although he is completely naked and bare-headed and has no tail between his legs. Some Phoenician representations include these features and illustrate how Egyptian iconography was often transmitted to Cyprus.

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  • Title: Terracotta figurine of the Egyptian god Bes
  • Date Created: -600/-450
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 17.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: mould-made
  • Subject: ancient egyptian deity
  • Registration number: 1894,1101.27
  • Production place: Made in Cyprus
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Amathus
  • Period/culture: Cypro-Archaic II
  • Material: terracotta
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Excavated by Turner Bequest Excavations, Amathus. Funded by Turner, Emma Tourner

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