305-30 BC


Ptolemaic Period


5 11/16 x 1 7/16 in. (14.5 x 3.6 cm)

Object Number



In its distinctive upright position, the cobra embodied aggression and inspired fear. As such, it became the symbol most readily associated with the king, both protecting him and representing his protective capabilities. The cobra is frequently found as an architectural element as early as the Predynastic Period. The earliest extant example of a stone frieze of cobras occurs in the Third Dynasty Pyramid complex of Djoser at Saqqara. In later periods, cobras wearing solar disks appeared atop divine or funerary shrines, often arranged in friezes. Tutankhamun's canopic shrine was adorned with a frieze of composite snakes, their faience heads attached to gilded wood bodies.

Uraei fashioned from wood were also used for private burials, both in two-dimensional representations and affixed to shrines, coffins, and kiosks that were placed inside the tomb. This example is elegantly carved, with a slightly uplifted head surmounted by a solar disk. The sinuously curving body tapers below the flare of the hood, leaning backward in the menacing, prestrike posture characteristic of the cobra. The tail curves up along the serpent's back, extending to the top of the solar disk. A hole at the joint of the head and disk would provide additional support for the upper portion of the figure.

Credit Line

Gift of Edith Woodfin West


Napoleon in Egypt, Museum of Arts and Sciences, Macon, GA, January 13 - March 26, 2006|
Hall of Ancient Egypt, The Houston Museum of Natural Science, August 2014 - Present
Peter Lacovara and Betsy Teasley Trope, The Realm of Osiris (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2001), 29.


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



“Uraeus,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed December 14, 2018, http://carlos.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/8050.

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