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Portable shrine
305-30 B.C.E.

Ptolemaic Dynasty

Wood (probably sycamore fig), covered with gesso, painted, and gilded
H: 56.3 W: 36.7 D: 48.1 cm
Egypt

Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1907.4a-g

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This is a rare example of a portable shrine that was used by Egyptian priests to carry images of deities in various ceremonies within the temple and on voyages outside the temple during specific festivals. Such shrines are depicted in carved reliefs dating to the Ptolemaic period (305–30 B.C.E.), but few actual examples have survived. The deity in the shrine could be represented by a cult statue or by a living or mummified animal.

The shrine is elaborately decorated with painted scenes of deities and hieroglyphic inscriptions. The sides depict the eight gods of creation, which were closely associated with the cult site of the god Thoth at Hermopolis Magna. The ibis-headed god Thoth is himself represented on one door, and the falcon-headed god Horus on the other. Both doors also depict a kneeling king, indicating that this shrine was a royal commission.