Fish Bowl



Fish Bowl




1539-1077 BC


New Kingdom


1 7/8 x 5 11/16 in. (4.8 x 14.5 cm)

Object Number



The remarkably well-preserved bowl is of a type that is known primarily from tomb offerings of the New Kingdom; however, a number of shards from such bowls have also been found in shrine contexts suggesting that the bowls were not purely funerary. These vessels are often decorated with representations of the blue lotus or other symbols of rebirth such as the tilapia seen here. When danger approaches, the young tilapia fish hide in the mouth of a parent and emerge again when danger passes. The Egyptians saw this as an example of spontaneous generation, and so the tilapia fish became an important symbol of rebirth. As depicted on these bowls, it also evoked the image of a fish swimming in a pond. In addition to the fish, there are representations of papyrus growing in the background. Papyrus thickets would have lined the banks of the Nile in antiquity and would have had significant symbolic meaning. The Egyptians believed that the created world was born out of a liquid uncreated state called Nun. The marshy areas around the Nile were associated with this state and therefore held the potential for creation.

The circles painted along the rim of the bowl refer to the mandrake fruit, which was a potent aphrodisiac and would have further aided in the rebirth of the deceased. The shallow, thin-walled, round-bottomed bowl is of a type characteristic of the Ramesside Period, and similar examples are to be found in many museum collections, although this finely crafted example ranks with the best. The near pristine condition of the bowl indicates that it likely came from a funerary context and therefore the regenerative symbolism would have been particularly apt.

Credit Line

Gift of Mohamed Farid Khamis and Oriental Weavers


From Pharaohs to Emperors: New Egyptian and Classical Antiquities, Michael C. Carlos Museum, January 14 - April 2, 2006|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, 2006 - Present
MCCM Newsletter, December 2002 - February 2003.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2005.
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On View



“Fish Bowl,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed December 11, 2018,

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