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HOME : Egyptian Antiquities : Ptolemaic Period : Wooden Polychrome Sculpture of Ptah-Sokar-Osiris
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Wooden Polychrome Sculpture of Ptah-Sokar-Osiris - SK.003
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 304 BC to 30 BC
Dimensions: 28" (71.1cm) high
Collection: Egyptian
Medium: Wood

Location: UAE
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The multiplicity of gods in the Ancient Egyptian pantheon frequently resulted in the merger of the identities of the different gods into one composite deity. Ptah-Sokar-Osiris is one such syncretic deity, combining the attributes of the three gods after whom he is named. Ptah, the creator god, is regarded as one of the greatest deities in the Egyptian pantheon. Ancient inscriptions describe him as “creator of the earth, father of the gods and all the being of this earth, father of beginnings.” He was regarded as the patron of metalworkers and artisans and as a mighty healer and is usually represented as a mummy. The main centre of his worship was in Memphis. Sokar, the “Adorned One,” was depicted in the form of a hawk-headed mummified man. Lord of darkness and death (in the sense of inertia), he presided over the Memphis necropolis and was sometimes viewed as an alternate form of Ptah before their identities were combined. By the end of the New Kingdom, the composite Ptah-Sokar had merged with yet another deity, Osiris, god of fertility, king of the dead, and ruler of eternity. The legend of Osiris states that his brother Seth, overcome by jealousy, murdered him and tore his body into fourteen parts, scattering them across Egypt. Isis, the faithful wife of Osiris, traversed the land and gathered all the parts of his body. She then cast a spell that resurrected her deceased husband for one night, during which their child, Horus, was conceived. Thus, Osiris was the central figure of Egyptian religion, the god who had triumphed over death and therefore offered the hope of rebirth and resurrection to all men.

In this magnificent wooden polychrome sculpture, Ptah-Sokar-Osiris is depicted in the form of a mummified man standing upon a rectangular base. Such sculptures have been found in numerous tombs dating from the Late Dynastic Period to the Ptolemaic era. Inside their rectangular bases, they often contained either a papyrus scroll or a miniature mummy composed of clay and grains of barley, known as “corn mummies,” that were symbolic of rebirth in the next world. There are two vertical columns of hieroglyphs on the lower half of the figure. Such inscriptions usually contain the name of the deceased and prayers invoking the blessings of Osiris. Above the text is a winged scarab pushing a sun disk and flanked by udjat eyes. The god wears a broad collar and a latticed mummy netting around the body with a winged scarab on the feet. His arms are crossed over the chest and he wears a tripartite wig with gilding on the wig tips and the face. The headdress was made separately and consists of ram horns, a sun disk and double plumes. An attachment on the underside of the feet fits into the rectangular plinth which is painted with hieroglyphs in black on an ochre ground.

This piece would have formed part of the tomb furnishings of a wealthy individual during the Ptolemaic period, when Egypt was ruled by a Greek dynasty. It is an eloquent visual expression of Egyptian religious beliefs and continues to impress us with the quality of its execution. (AM) - (SK.003)


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