Statuette of Apis Bull on a Sledge

Artefact Details

Gallery number: Room 19 – Upper Floor

Period: Late Period (c. 664–332 BC)

Place of discovery: Saqqara

Size: H 31.00 cm W 8.50 cm D/L 24.00 cm

Material: Bronze

Egypt had several bull cults of which the Apis cult was the most popular. This sacred bull was known by a number of names including Api, Hapi, or Hep, before the Greeks introduced the name Apis. He was the god of fertility and primeval power associated with the creator god Ptah, where he becomes Ptah’s earthly incarnation.

Worship of Apis Bull can be traced as early as the 1st Dynasty where he was associated with festive occasions and ceremonies of fertility and regeneration. He is depicted commonly as a striding bull with a solar-disk and uraeus between its horns, or as a man with a bull’s head in later times. During the Ptolemaic period, he was represented as a bearded man in robes.

Each Apis Bull was chosen according to detailed specifications to embody this god, who was the patron of artisans and the tutelary deity of Memphis. When an Apis Bull died he would be embalmed and buried in grand style within the Serapeum at Saqqara, a series of chambers and corridors that grew as space for additional burials was needed. Over the periods during which the Serapeum was in active use, thousands of pilgrims dedicated stelae and figurines to honour the Apis Bull.

This statue depicts the bull’s striding forward, leading with the left leg. A sun-disk fronted by a uraeus cobra rests between its horns, indicating its divinity. The triangular patch on its forehead was one of the markings by which the living god was identified. Around its neck, incised lines create an elaborate collar, of the type worn by humans for festival occasions. There is a dedicatory inscription on the sledge.