Oxyrhynchus Fish Votive



Oxyrhynchus Fish Votive


722-332 BC


Late Period


Bronze, lapis lazuli, glass
4 x 4 13/16 in. (10.2 x 12.2 cm)

Object Number



This small statue group depicts a man kneeling before the larger figure of a fish. Resting atop a shrine inlaid with lapis lazuli and red glass, the fish wears a crown of cow horns and the sun disk. The distinctive appearance of the fish easily identifies it as the oxyrhynchus, a common African variety whose name means "pointed nose."

The oxyrhynchus is closely associated with the god Osiris, playing an integral role in the events leading up to the resurrection of the god. In the most complete account of the Osiris myth, recorded by the Greek Historian Plutarch in the first to second centuries AD, Osiris was dismembered by his vengeful brother, Seth. After Seth scattered the body parts throughout Egypt, Osiris's phallus was eaten by the oxyrhychus. Despite its participation in the downfall of Osiris, the fish was considered sacred. The Roman author Aelian, writing in the second to third centuries AD, attested that fisherman took great pains to remove the oxyrhynchus from their nets, though tomb representations do show the fish being caught for food.

The oxyrhynchus was also associated with the goddess Hathor and was frequently portrayed wearing her characteristic crown, as in this instance. During the Late period, there was a proliferation of small bronze images of deities presented as votive offerings in temples. The image often included a representation of the donor, as here, as additional proof of devotion. This fish was particularly sacred in the town of the same name, Oxyrhynchus (modern el-Behnasa), as well as at el-Omari, the site of a necropolis for mummified fish. It is possible that this figure was dedicated at such a cult center.

Credit Line

Gift of the Connoisseurs


Selected Acquisitions: Asia to America, Emory University Museum of Art and Archaeology, May 8 - August 8, 1987|
Across the Millennia: Antiques from the Emory University Museum of Art and Archaeology, Southern Bell Center, January 6 - February 29, 1988|
MCCM Permanent Collection Gallery, 2001 - Present
Michael C. Carlos Museum Handbook (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 1996), 22.|
Peter Lacovara and Betsy Teasley Trope, The Realm of Osiris (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2001), 16.|
Nicole K. Leong and Danielle Sass, "A Bronze Oxyrhynchus Fish in the Museum of Ancient Cultures, Macquarie University," The Bulletin of the Australian Centre for Egyptology 25 (2014): 76, figure 5.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Peter Harholdt.
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On View



“Oxyrhynchus Fish Votive,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed January 16, 2019, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/8043.

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