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Statuette of the Goddess Taweret Permanent Collection:
Ancient Egyptian Art:
Statuette of the Goddess Taweret

Late Period, ca. 712-332 B.C. Faience. L1994.12.103

Pregnancy, birth, and its aftermath were times of great risk for both mothers and their offspring, and women needed deities to whom they could turn for protection against the dangers involved. One such deity was the goddess Taweret, who was depicted with the head of a hippopotamus, the limbs and paws of a lion, a mane in the form of a crocodile's tail, pendulous breasts, and a belly swollen by pregnancy. Her grotesque appearance was probably intended to ward off malicious spirits and to harness the terrifying powers of the hippopotamus, lion, and crocodile so that they might protect women and their children.

Although there were no state temples dedicated to Taweret, there is evidence that her cult formed part of the rituals celebrated at the household altar. In addition, her image appears on domestic objects, such as cosmetic items, and amulets in the form of the goddess have been found at a number of settlement sites and at temples, where they were presented as votive offerings. The provenance and exact function of the piece shown here is unknown, but one may surmise that it either formed part of the furnishings of a household shrine or was presented as a votive offering in a temple.

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