Brief Identification Edit
This is a bronze-casted Ibex head that was created circa 1000 BCE. Other animal heads like this were used as figureheads on funerary and ceremonial boats in Egypt. This particular figurehead would have been on one of the ends of a funerary boat that could have carried the coffin and procession of a very important person or pharaoh to their final resting place. Funeral processions and religious ceremonies that required such means of travel and luxury were very common at this time in Egypt. This figurehead was created for for a boat in the 21st Dynasty of Egypt in the Third Intermediate Period. It was acquired by the Neues Museum in 1893 and is still housed there to this day [Priese 1991].
Technical Evaluation Edit
The head is about 32 centimeters high. Only the area from the neck up is still intact. The area of the neck is modeled in such a way that mimics the look of hair that an actual Ibex would have. The Ibex's beard juts out just underneath the mouth. Its delicately formed ears as well as the large and curving horns are both still intact. This is impressive considering the fact that they have not broken off during its three thousand years of being in existence. The green color is caused by oxidation of the copper that is present in the bronze alloy when it is exposed to water and oxygen. The gold inlays are still visible on the eyes and in some of the indentations around the mouth as well as on the horns and on the neck.
The technique of creating bronze-casted sculptures such as this Ibex head is still the same for the most part now as it was during the time in which it was created. First, the artist sculpts a piece of clay into a form that will become the bronze end-piece. This allowed for great detail to be added to the bronze as is shown on the Ibex head here. Then the clay piece is smoothed down and a cast is taken of it and then removed from the piece. The Egyptians would have used a plaster type substance to do this. Hot wax is then poured into the cavity within the cast that was where the clay piece originally was. Molten hot bronze is poured in through channels hollowed out in the hardened wax. As the hot metal spreads, it melts the wax and fills in the small spaces in the cast of the original clay piece.
The funerary and ceremonial boats that were decorated with figureheads similar to the Ibex were used in funeral processions that required transportation across the Nile. Funerary boats were built in full size to provide transport across the river, and as well in a smaller size that carried the coffin or sarcophagus only [Partridge 1996]. The wooden boats used mostly in this practice were styled to look like the older models of papyrus boats, even mimicking their bundles of reeds on each end [Wachsmann 2013]. These imitation bundles eventually became more stylized, sporting heads of antelopes and ibexes, like this one shown here.
Local Historical Context Edit
This crossing of the Nile in funerary processions was symbolic of the crossover from the earthly world (which was represented by the eastern bank) to the Afterlife (the western bank). The Egyptians would bury their dead in tombs within their local *necropolis* on the western bank [El-Shahaway 2005]. One of the most crowded necropolises was the Necropolis of Thebes, which contained over 450 tombs that ranged in burial dates from the Old Kingdom to the Ptolemaic Dynasty [Otto 1967].
The Third Intermediate Period, in which the Ibex head was built, began with the death of Ramses XI around 1070 BCE and ended when the rulers from Nubia were expulsed from Egypt in 664 BCE. Egypt was continuously broken apart and reunited during this time, with power divided between both pharaohs and high priests. The political confusion caused the Egyptian hold on the southern city of Thebes to be loosened more and more until the eventual takeover of the city by the Nubian forces to the south. Around 732 BCE, Nubian forces pushed their influence farther north into Lower Egypt and defeated a series of native kings and establishing the 25th Dynasty. Foreign Nubian kings ruled this dynasty while its former allies were under the control of Assyrians, and the threat of war was steadily increasing. The Assyrians eventually did attack, and with the sack of Memphis and Thebes, the Nubian kings were overthrown and the 26th Dynasty established. This invasion also marked the end of the Third Intermediate Period.
== World Historical Significance == When the Ibex was constructed, during the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt, a name that encompasses the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd dynasties. This time between the New Kingdom and the late period was a one of political fragmentation. All of Egypt was divided up into smaller regions and control was passed back and forth amongst different powerful families. Inner Egyptian rivalries led to the loss of control over Nubia, and the newly independent nation gained power until eventually was able to exert control over Egypt for nearly seventy-five years. The political decentralization led to an increased focus of temple life and “innovation” of new styles of bronze statuary in temples that depicted gods and kings. Because of all the political unrest and uncertainty, the temple atmosphere became a haven for many and became a hub for political ambition, social recognition, and artistic innovation. The surge of high quality craftsmanship of the time can obviously be seen in the Ibex head here. It is clearly much more detailed than the stone sculptures of pharaohs and gods that were normal in the years before these new innovations began to take place.
El-Shahawy, Abeer. The Funerary Art of Ancient Egypt: A Bridge to the Realm of the Hereafter. Cairo: Farid Atiya, 2005. Print.
Partridge, Robert B. Transport in Ancient Egypt. London: Rubicon, 1996. Print.
Otto, Eberhard. Ancient Egyptian Art: The Cults of Osiris and Amon. New York: Abrams, 1967. Print.
Wachsmann, Shelley. The Gurob Ship-cart Model and Its Mediterranean Context. College Station: Texas A & M UP, 2013. Print.
Priese, Karl-Heinz. Ägyptisches Museum. Mainz: Ph. Von Zabern, 1991. Print. (Article translated by Jillian Schmidt)
“The Story of Sculpture: From Clay to Bronze” http://www.gobronze.org/from.html
“Egypt in the Third Intermediate Period (1070-712 B.C.)” http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/tipd/hd_tipd.htm
"The New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC) and the Third Intermediate Period (1070-712 BC) http://www.cemml.colostate.edu/cultural/09476/egypt02-05enl.html