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HOME : Egyptian Antiquities : Masterpieces of Egyptian Art : Cult Object in the Shape of a Golden Pomegranate
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Cult Object in the Shape of a Golden Pomegranate - X.0723
Origin: Israel
Circa: 1300 BC to 900 BC
Weight: 22Grams
Collection: Egyptian
Medium: Gold

Location: Great Britain
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This remarkable spheroid vase is in the form of a pomegranate. Its short neck with distinctive, ribbed, everted petals imitates the natural form of the top of this fruit. The neck of the vessel is decorated with a series of repeated motifs in the form of a central lotus bud, flanked on each side by single lotus blossoms. These are oriented toward the bottom of the vessel as if forming part of a garland placed around the neck of the vase.

The pomegranate was first introduced into Egypt during the later Bronze Age from the Levant as a result of the military campaigns of such warrior pharaohs as Tuthmosis III. Shortly thereafter Egyptian craftsmen of Dynasty XVIII were creating vases in the shape of pomegranates in silver, faience, glass, ivory and other deluxe materials. These, however, differ in their design from our golden pomegranate.

In the Levant, and particularly in Israel, the pomegranate (rimmon in Hebrew) was regarded as one of the seven species of the land of Israel. It served as a Biblical symbol of beauty, love and marriage, fertility and multiplicity and life after death. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the shape of our pomegranate is more in keeping with that of pomegranates created in Canaan. The date of the piece can be established stylistically, especially through perusal of the repeated lotus pattern. Although this motif was quite popular in ancient Egyptian jewellery throughout the New Kingdom, it enjoyed unprecedented popularity in the Third Intermediate Period: it was at this time that relationships between Egypt and Israel reached their peak. These interrelationships were often hostile, as documented in the scenes and inscriptions of the Bubastite Portal within the Karnak temples where Pharaoh Sheshonq I (about 948-927 BC) recorded his two campaigns into the Levant that penetrated as far north as Megiddo. Possibly as a conciliatory gesture (or in a lacuna of comparative peace), 1 Kings 9:16 reports that King Solomon married a daughter of pharaoh. The reign of Solomon is traditionally considered to be contemporary with part of Egypts Third Intermediate Period. It is doubtless on account of such associations between Egypt and Canaan that this pomegranate is decorated with an Egyptian lotus motif.

Our pomegranate finds its closest parallels in a golden pomegranate described as a cult object now in the collections of the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem (inventory: 3435). The two examples are stylistically similar and may have shared similar functions.


Carol Andrews, Ancient Egyptian Jewelry (London 1990), pages 118-119 and 138-139, for two jewels from the burial of the Egyptian pharaoh Sheshonq II which employ this motif as a decorative elements.

Aidan Dodson, Monarchs of the Nile (Cairo 2000), 159-164, for a discussion of this pharaoh and his campaigns.

I.E.S. Edwards, Tutankhamun: His Tomb and its Treasures (New York 1975), for a silver pomegranate from this tomb. W. Seipel [editor], Land der Bibel. Jerusalem und die Königsstädte des Alten Oriens. Schätze aus dem Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem. Katalog (Vienna 1997), page 135, no. 194, for the golden pomegranate which served as a cult object.

A.Weise and A. Brodeck [editors], Tutankhamun. The Golden Beyond. Tomb Treasures from the Valley of the Kings (Basel 2004), pages 160-161, catalogue 16B, a faience pomegranate from the tomb of Amenophis II.

J. G. Westenholz, Sacred Bounty, Sacred Land. The Seven Species of the Land of Israel (Jerusalem 1998), pages 33-37, for the pomegranate in Hebrew religion and tradition. - (X.0723)


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