Thursday, January 31, 2008

Roman Period Crocodile Lamp, RC 28

One of the oldest of the Egyptian deities is the crocodile-god Sobek. Sobek became widely worshipped in Egypt after the 12th Dynasty, especially in the swamps and wetlands of Lower Egypt. Several temples were dedicated to the worship of this god including those at Kom Ombo, Medinet El-Fayum, and Gebelein. These temples often featured a shallow pool in which sacred crocodiles were kept. Upon death, they were mummified and interred in sacred coffins.

This bronze oil lamp honors Sobek and dates to the Roman Period (30 BCE-395 CE.) Two eyelets indicate it was intended for suspension from a rope or chain. It would have been filled with tallow using the hole on the crocodile’s back and would have been lit near the snout, where another hole can be observed. Bronze casting techniques were well developed throughout the ancient world by this period and this is reflected in the artist’s execution of the rough skin and serrated tail of this revered creature.