Brief Identification Edit

The Berlin Green Head came from Egypt.  The date that this item was created is not decidedly known; Bernard Bothmer notes that because the work does not have "inscriptions" or a "conspicuous headdress," it is difficult to know with certainty the date this object was made; he adds that it "has been attributed to every century from the Saites to the Ptolemies" (See Bothmer 1951, 71-72).  The Egyptian Museum in Berlin, where the item is now located, lists the date as "Late Period, Dynasty 30, ca. 350 BC" [1].  The museum also gives the height of the Berlin Green Head as 21.5 cm [2], as well as the material, greywacke, that was used [3]

Oxford Art Online notes that the Berlin Green Head was given by Adolf Erman  to the Egyptian Museum in Berlin [4].

Technical EvaluationEdit

The creator of the Berlin Green Head is unknown.  However, it is clear that this item was not unique in regards to the material used.  The Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt notes that, long before the Berlin Green Head was created, "Graywacke (sometimes called schist) and slate from the Wadi Hammamat were used for various artifacts... in the Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods, and later for statues" (See Bard 1999, 560).  If the Berlin Green Head was created in the Ptolemaic period, which has been suggested, Jack A. Josephson notes that there was an "abundance of greywacke statues" during that time (See Josephson 1995, 13-14).

Bothmer also notes how the combination of the "crow's feet, skin folds, and wrinkles on the forehead all together first occur here in Late Period sculpture" (See Bothmer 2004, 420).

Local Historical ContextEdit

Since the Green Berlin Head was found in Egypt, it is assumed that the object was created by the Egyptians.  The Egyptian Museum in Berlin notes that it is likely that the Berlin Green Head is supposed to be a "representation of a priest" [5].  Many depictions of Pharaohs have been found in Egypt; since a priest was still an elevated position, it should not seem strange to find works depicting them as well.  The Egyptian Museum in Berlin makes this particular assumption because of the object's perceived shaved head [6].

Lyvia Morgan notes that "Living image was the ancient Egyptian term for statue... the statue was a body to house the vital essence of an individual (ka), as the focus of cult and the recipient of offerings" (See Morgan 2011, 4).  Therefore, it is probable that the Berlin Green Head had religious significance.

The Berlin Green Head has been damaged; how this happened can only be speculated.  It is possible that it was purposely defaced, as other art has been, when a new power would ascend the throne (See Razmjou 2002, 81). 

If the Berlin Green Head was indeed made around 350 BC, this would have placed the artifact's creation at a time when life was changing in Egypt.  Dorothy J. Crawford notes that, around this time, 66 of the villages had Greek names, noting the "Greek influence" on Egypt in the Ptolemaic Period due to Alexander the Great's earlier conquering of Egypt (See Crawford 1971, 41). 

World-Historical SignificanceEdit

According to Heinrich Drerup, the Berlin Green Head is not to be seen as rising purely from the Egyptians' culture; he notes the similarities between it and Greek and Roman art; this conclusion is based on dating the Berlin Green Head at a specific time, which Drerup states as "after Alexander the Great" (See Review by Bothmer 1952, 86). 

Nor is this type of art uncommon when looking back through history.  "In Egypt proper, the tradition of profound portraiture lasts well into the first century B.C.  Both the Berlin 'Green Head' and the Brooklyn 'Black Head' are representative of the different styles in which man's search to create a deeply moving image of himself achieved its highest expressions in ancient Egypt" (See Bothmer 2004, 164).  This is an idea that was around before the Berlin Green Head and one that is still prevalent today.


Bard, Kathryn A., ed., Encyclopedia of the Archaelogy of Ancient Egypt.  London:  Routledge, 1999.

Bothmer, Bernard, review of Ӓgyptische Bildniskӧpfe griechischer und rӧmischer Zeit, by Heinrich Drerup, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 56, No. 1 (1952):  86-87.  JSTOR.

Bothmer, Bernard.  Egyptian Art.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2004.

Bothmer, Bernard.  "The Signs of Age," Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Vol. 49, No. 277 (1951):  69-74.  JSTOR.

Crawford, Dorothy J.  Kerkeosiris:  An Egyptian Village in the Ptolemaic Period.  London:  Cambridge University Press, 1971.

Josephson, Jack A.  "A Fragmentary Egyptian Head from Heliopolis," Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 30 (1995):  5-15.  JSTOR.

Morgan, Lyvia.  "Enlivening the Body:  Color and Stone Statues in Old Kingdom Egypt," Notes in the History of Art, Vol. 30, No. 3 (2011):  4-11.  JSTOR

Razmjou, Shakrokh.  "Assessing the Damage:  Notes on the Life and Demise of the Statue of Darius from Susa," Ars Orientalis, Vol. 32 (2002):  81-104.  JSTOR.

Brittanica Online, "Adolf Erman,"

Brittanica Online, "Ka,"

Brittanica Online, "Schist,"

Metropolitan Museum of of Art, "Alexander the Great,"

Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Early Dynastic,"

Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Pharoahs,"

Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Predynastic,"

Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Ptolemies,"

Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Saites,"

New York Times, "Bernard Bothmer,"

Oxford Art Online,

Society for the Promotion of the Egyptian Museum Berlin,

Tour Egypt, "Wadi Hammamat,"