The Nile God Hapi Ritually Tying Together Upper and Lower Egypt
- 663–525 BCE
From the 26th Dynasty (664-525 BCE), this schist fragment depicts the Nile god Hapi carved in sunken relief as a double image, each with a floral headdress, tying together the heraldic plants of Upper and Lower Egypt. On the head of the left figure is the papyrus of Lower Egypt; on the head of the right figure is the lotus of Upper Egypt, combined to form a single heraldic symbol of the united land. The fleshy form of the god's body is androgynous, with full breasts and abdomen that symbolize the agricultural prosperity with which the Nile sustained ancient Egypt. At the center of the composition are hieroglyphs recording the name and titles of the king, "The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, the Lord of the Two Lands, Nefer-ib-re, the son of Re, of his body, Psamtic (II)." Flanking the central inscription, and appearing before each Nile god, are two subsidiary texts. Both read: "(I) give (you) all life and dominion, like Re, forever." This inscription identifies the 26th Dynasty ruler with the glorious past, stressing the millennia-old concept of the king as an incarnation of Re, the sun god, and himself an immortal being.
This fragment is an exceptionally fine example of relief carving from the Late Period of Egyptian art. The 26th Dynasty was one of the last native Egyptian dynasties ruling Egypt, after a period of invasion and foreign rule. Rulers like Psamettichus I deliberately cultivated older traditional formulas in art and religion, harking back to the great days of pharaonic Egypt, hence the appearance of traditional gods like Hapi who symbolized the fertility of the annual Nile River flood waters. This piece is probably from the same monument as the Dallas Museum of Art's schist fragment depicting Thoth (1979.1), the ibis-headed god of scribes and learning, who was also associated with the Egyptian funerary cult. The exact nature of the original monument is uncertain, but the fragments are likely from a throne, a naos (shrine), or similar architectonic structure.
Anne R. Bromberg, January 2003.
DMA unpublished material, 1994.