Egypt, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550 to 1292 BCE. A hand-carved stone kohl vessel in the form of a baboon reaching his arms around a palm tree or papyrus plant, delineated in fine detail and upon an integral oval plinth. There is a deep recess in the center of the plant's leaves to hold kohl, an ancient cosmetic used to line the eyes of both women and men in ancient Egypt. Just why is the baboon so interested in this plant? According to Deputte & Anderson's article, "Baboon Palm Nut Harvesters in Ancient Egypt: New (Ancient) Evidence, New Questions," while it is well known that the ancient Egyptians used hamadryas baboons to pick fruit, the fact that they were used to collect palm nuts is less well known. The scholars go on to describe how this practice was depicted on a painting on an ancient artifact. In addition, baboons are best known for their association with Thoth, the god of writing - hence this baboon may in fact be reaching for a papyrus plant, as for many centuries, papyrus was the most important writing material in the Classical and Mediterranean world. Size: 2.125" H (5.4 cm)
Baboons were not native to Egypt, but instead were imported from Nubia. They were, however, common animals in the ancient Egyptian artistic tradition as well as important to religious worship. As discussed above, this primate example may be representative of Thoth, the god of writing, accounting, and other intellectual pursuits, who was typically associated with the ibis. However, Thoth would occasionally assume the form of a baboon in certain tales in Egyptian lore.
Follow this link to see a similar piece in the Louvre - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kohl_box_monkey_with_palm_tree_E7985_mp3h8620.jpg
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-private American collection, acquired in the 1970s
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