Brian Zimerle of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago demonstrates and explains the techniques that would have been used by potters in the Egyptian predynastic period (c. 6000-3000 BC). 2/3.
Although baby fat abounds in this sturdy figure of the infant Herakles, its solid stance, mature face, and aggressively outthrust arm provide all the clues needed for identification. According to myth, the god Zeus fathered the hero Herakles with a human mother. In her rage at the birth of the child, Zeus’ wife Hera sent a pair of snakes to kill the infant in his bed, but the child gleefully strangled them with his bare hands. The sculpture’s lustrous surface is a rare example of “black bronze.” It was artificially darkened to emphasize contrasting gold or silver inlays, which can be seen in the child’s eyes and teeth.
The Udjat-eye (also called Horus-eye) was one of the most popular amulets in Ancient Egypt. The eye symbolizes legitimate kingship, it secures the life of the sun-god, and also of other deities, as well as human beings. In the Horus myth the eye was stolen from its legitimate owner Horus, by Seth, the god of the wild, powerful, and untamed nature. This violent act caused disorder in the universe, and the eye had to be brought back to reestablish order, and to heal in its place with Horus. As an amulet the Udjat-eye should secure life in this world and in the afterlife, protect health, and promote healing. The standardized form of the amulet combines the human eye with the cheek marking of a falcon and the tear marking of a cheetah. Besides the right Udjat-eye there is also a left version. While the right eye is connected with the sun, the left eye represents the moon. Most of the Udjat-eye amulets have a green-blue or red color; in this case different colors are combined to reflect the polychromy of life and nature.
Ani’s Judgment: the scene is the Hall of Judgment. Centrally placed is a balance, holding in its two pans Ani’s heart (on the left) and a feather (on the right) representing Maat, the divine personification of truth and order. The crossbar of the balance hangs from a feather-shaped peg attached to the upright support, on the top of which squats a small baboon. This creature is a form of the god Thoth, who acts in a different form and with a different duty elsewhere in this “trial”. The god Anubis, here shown as a jackal-headed, human-bodied, kneeling deity, described as “he who is in the place of embalming,” holds the cord of the right-hand pan, and steadies the plumb bob of the balance. To the right of the balance stands Thoth, here in human form with ibis head; he is the scribe of the gods, and he holds a scribe’s palette and a reed brush, ready to note down the results of Ani’s interrogation. On a mat behind Thoth sits a monster ready to spring forward to consume Ani’s heart if he fails to pass the test. This creature has the head of a crocodile, the forepart of a lion, and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus. At the top of the scene the great gods of Egypt are shown, formally seated on thrones, waiting to deliver judgment: Ra-Horakhty, Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Isis and Nephthys, Horus and Hathor, joined by gods personifying the divine word (Hu) and perception (Sia). Other deities observe the proceedings: to the left of the balance, Shay (fate) and, strangely, two birth goddesses, Renenutet and Meskhenet. Ani’s soul or ‘ba’ bird, which will allow him freedom of movement in and out of the tomb after death, perches on a shrine-shaped building, ready to be released if judgment is given in Ani’s favor. Into this formidable gathering comes Ani, accompanied by his wife Tutu. They enter from the left, bending forward in proper humility, and Ani mutters the words of Spell 30B of the ‘Book of the Dead’, which are addressed to his heart in the balance. All, it seems, goes well for Ani; he has qualified for the Afterlife.