Lotiform Chalices

All of these are housed in the Metropolitan museum http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/100005225?rpp=20&pg=7&ft=egypt+and+child&pos=136

These chalices date from the Third Intermediate Period in Egyptian history and are all made of faience with a turquoise glaze. All of these chalices depict lotus flowers, papyrus marshes full of life, all symbols of fertility and also abundance. Link this to the use of Hathor on one of the cups, a naked woman on another and the overriding theme of libation to Hathor, I believe we have cups used in some way for the procurement of fertility from the gods. Hathor after all, among many other roles, is goddess of fertility, childbirth and motherhood. Vessels found at Serabit el-Khadim are inscribed with “beloved of Hathor Lady, Mistress of Mefkat”, and are shown in scenes being used for libations and as containers of fruit or flowers. It is possible then that chalices were used as a permanent substitute for the daily offerings of flowers, fruit and vegetables. We also see in the tomb of Ameneminet from dynasty 19, a scene where a chalice of vegetables are offered to Hathor, in cow form. Lotiform chalices have also been found in the Hathor Temple at Timna’, Palestine and in level VIII/VII at Beth Shan. The lotiform chalice that depicts a naked woman, has a very well defined pubic area such as we see in many “fertility dolls”. The lotus became a symbol of creation and rebirth because it opened its petals each morning to the sun and therefore could have had a funerary context. The colour blue reaffirms the link to water and creation as well as emulating the much more “expensive” mineral lapis lazuli, which purportedly had life giving powers. Unfortunately, none of these lotiform chalices have provenances recorded, apart from auctions and museum acquisitions, so we cannot further stipulate what they were intended for.

Perhaps more simply these were just used as holders for lotus flower oil or perfume and it is our perception of the shape being something we use for drink, which has biased opinion. Certainly, some museums put lotiform chalices with cosmetic goods and toiletries. Egyptians often used the lotus for the decoration of toilet articles.

It is most frustrating that we do not have a context in which to put these chalices and therefore understand their use a bit better. All that is certain is, I will be researching these now for a lot longer than I originally thought, as I am intrigued as to their use.

All the best,

Ankh Nfr

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  1. Pingback: Reblog: Lotiform Chalices « The Egyptiana Emporium

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