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EC271 Votive model or Incense Burner?

EC271This item, is made of faience. It has an indentation on the top, perhaps to burn incense or to hold small offerings. Note its similarity to the stone model columns which we have in the stone case. Stone examples are usually said to be votive offerings or sculptors’ models (Tomoum 2005) though some examples from the Middle Kingdom are incense holders or offering stands. 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). 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’.

HoweveEC271br, ours is clearly not Middle Kingdom in date. The design suggests that it is Graeco-Roman and we know of no provenance examples of this date in faience which may give a clue as to purpose. While ours similarity in shape to Middle Kingdom offering stands and incense burners need not imply a similar function, the hollow in the top does suggest that it is an incense burner or offering stand. Other museums have similar objects. 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 faience columns in the Petrie Museum (UC35357, UC35358, UC35359, UC35360) are dated to the 12th Dynasty and described a ‘column models’. 58.170 in the Brooklyn Museum is described as a votive faience capital. We do not know if any of these have indentations in the top. 

For more information on incense in ancient Egypt

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.

Tomoum, 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 or Votives. In Defense of a Scholarly Tradition’. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. www.metmuseum.org/pubs/bulletins/1/pdf/3258242.pdf.bannered.pdf