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Model Column Capitals

EC261The Egypt Centre has two model capitals of columns, EC261 (left) and W168W168 (right). These are too small to have functioned as actual architectural columns. Very often votive items were made smaller than actual artefacts and it is possible that these are votives. Alternatively, they may be sculptors’ models, an item common in the Late Period to Graeco-Roman Egypt (Tomoun 2005).

Other museums have similar objects. Most are in stone, for example the Metropolitan has 10.175.47, 6.99.138 and 12.182.6. Several from Cairo Museum are illustrated in (Tomoun 2005). A faience example is in Indiana University Art Museum (92.483, see http://www.iub.edu/~iuam/online_modules/egypt/17.html) dating to the Graeco Roman Period. Another is in the Petrie Museum (UC69682) dating to the Graeco-Roman Period, and several in the Petrie Museum (UC35357, UC35358, UC35359, UC35360) are dated to the 12th Dynasty. 58.170 in the Brooklyn Museum is also described as a votive faience capital.

The example on the left has an indentation on the top. It could be, therefore that the column was part of a stand, perhaps for burning incense. The one on the right has no indentation. Additionally, the example on the left does not appear to be a complete piece, and is perhaps a decorative pilaster, unfinished, or broken. The ornate style of the one on the left suggests and Graeco-Roman date. Four-lobed composite capitals like this are found in Graeco-Roman temples (e.g. the western column in the entrance hall of the mammisi in the Temple of Isis at Philae, Phillips 2002, 204, fig.409) and a similar Ptolemaic model example has been found at Dendera (Tomoum 2005, no.172 p242, pl.84c).

EC271This item, on the left, EC271, is made of faience. It too has an indentation on the top, perhaps to burn incense or to hold small offerings. Note its similarity to the stone model columns. Of course, similarity in shape does not necessarily mean similarity in function. Both limestone and wooden model wooden columns from Middle Kingdom Kahun have been found in domestic contexts. Petrie discusses these and illustrates them along with items he classifies as ‘dish-stands’, he states that they had indentations at the top on which was placed a small piece of dough, perhaps as household offerings (Petrie 1890, 26, pl.XVI; Petrie 1891, 6, 11, pl.IV). Petrie also mentions that one was found at Beni Hassan (Petrie 1890, 26). David (1996, 134) quotes Petrie as describing ‘a small stone stand in the form of a lotus column, which supported a saucer which had obviously been used for burning incense’.

Further Reading

David, R. 1996. The Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt. A Modern Investigation Of Pharaoh’s Workforce. London and New York: Routledge.

Petrie, W.M.F. 1890. Kahun, Gurob and Hawara. London: K.Paul, Tench and Trubener.

Petrie, W.M.F. 1891. Illahun, Kahun and Gurob. 1889-90. London: D. Nutt.

Phillips, J.P. 2002. The Columns of Egypt. Manchester: Peartree Publishing.

Tomoun, N. 2005. The Sculptors’ Models Of the Late and Ptolemaic Periods. A Study of the Type and Function of a Group of Ancient Egyptian Artefacts. Cairo: National Centre for Documentation of Cultural and National Heritage and the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt, 104-127, plates 84-89.

Young, E. 1964. Sculptors’ Models of Votives. In Defense of a Scholarly Tradition’. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin.