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Pottery head of Nubian from Amarna


Depictions of Nubians are often associated with nursing women. The figure is painted blue, perhaps in imitation of similar faience examples.

The head can be recognised as Nubian by the by the cruciform hairstyle. The piece is 3.5cm high and hand modelled. It appears to belong to a larger piece. The head has a protrusion with hole, presumably for suspension and the back of the head appears to show hair with a bun. Alternatively, the loop may represent a hair ring as in ECM822, a faience Nubian head from the Eton College Collection or the attendant on British Museum ostraca EC8506. The hairstyle appears to be associated with Nubian women (Bulté 1991, 94), who are often shown on items associated with toilet and with childbirth and motherhood (e.g. Ashmolean AN1896-1908 E.1807 and the British Museum EC8506).  

Similar examples include ECM822 in the Eton College collection (Graves 2013). Several important goddesses such as Tefnut and Sekhmet were associated with Nubia in the Late Period. Friedman (1998, 208) believes that such figures are associated with motherhood and perhaps used to protect young children. A complete example is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1951.13, in Friedman 1998 ed. 69: 109, 208 and http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?keyword=1984.168) shows a nursing figure.  

See Pendlebury, J.D.S. 1951 pl. LXXIX number 12 (102b) and p 13 where this is described as ‘a foreigners head from the dump’. See Stevens 2006, 43 for more information of this type of artefacts, though she does not mention this particular object.


Bulté, J. 1991. Talismans Égytiens d’Heureuse Maternité. Faïence bleu vert à pois foncés. Paris.

Friedman, F.D. ed. 1989. Gifts of the Nile: Ancient Egyptian Faience. Thames and Hudson: London. 

Graves, C. 2013. Eton College Myers Collection of Egyptian Antiquities Object Highlight: ECM822, A Faience Nubian Head. Birmingham Egyptology Journal, 1. http://birminghamegyptology.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Eton-College-Myers-Collection-of-Egyptian-Antiquities-Object-Highlight-ECM822-A-Faience-Nubian-Head1.pdf (accessed 1.10.2013). 

Pendlebury, J.D.S. 1951 The City of Akhenaten Part III The Central City and Official Quarters, Volume I. Plates. London: Egypt Exploration Society.   

Stevens, A. 2006. Private Religion at Amarna. The Material Evidence. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Other Nubian pieces in the Egypt Centre

Other items from Amarna in the Egypt Centre