Thoth, God of Learning and Patron of Scribes

664–525 BCE
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General Description

Although this schist relief is from a late period of Egyptian art, it has the hieroglyphic purity of an earlier Egyptian style. Egyptian art was very conservative; once a satisfactory visual convention had been created, it might last for generations. Here the image of Thoth, god of learning, writing, and measurement, is carved in sunk relief. The ibis-headed god strides forward in the conventional posture designed for processional reliefs, bringing two staves (staffs), each symbolic of the years of the king's life and the period of his reign, to a now-missing figure of the king. At the bottom of each staff is a circular hieroglyph meaning "eternity." The relief is sharply cut for maximum readability; inscription and image are united. This fragment is probably from the same monument as the Dallas Museum of Art's Nile God Hapi Ritually Tying Together Upper and Lower Egypt (1991.114) that continues the theme of kingship. The exact nature of the original monument is uncertain, but the fragments are likely from a throne, a naos (shrine), or similar architectonic structure. Thoth in ibis form is also associated with the afterlife and Osiris' kingdom of the dead in the West.

Adapted from

  • Anne Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works, (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 94.