Sunday, June 29, 2014

Museum Pieces - Faience throwstick of Akhenaten

Photocredit: The British Museum
Faience throwstick of Akhenaten

From Tell el-Amarna, Egypt
18th Dynasty, around 1330 BC

Length: 39.000 cm (max.)
Width: 4.370 cm (max.)
Thickness: 1.760 cm (max.)

EA 34213

To ensure the king's regeneration

Wooden examples of throwsticks that were meant to be used have been found in the burials of Amenhotep II and Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, while model ones made of faience are known for most of the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC) kings until the early Twentieth Dynasty (about 1186-1069 BC).

While the wooden examples might actually have been used for hunting game birds, the faience ones could not be thrown without being broken. So what was their purpose? As is often the case in ancient Egypt, the explanation lies in the symbolism of rebirth and new life. Scenes of hunting game birds with throwsticks are common in New Kingdom private tombs. The Egyptian words for 'throwstick' and 'beget' (procreate) are very similar. Scenes of hunting game birds may therefore be an allusion to the creation of new life. The shiny and brilliant nature of faience suggests an association with the sun-god, Re; the blue-green colour is also associated with rebirth and new life.

This model, placed in the burial of Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV, 1352-1336 BC), would thus be a ritual object designed to ensure the king's regeneration after death.

F.D. Friedman (ed.), Gifts of the Nile: ancient Egy (London, Thames and Hudson, 1998)


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