Statuette of seated Isis suckling Hours

Artefact Details

Gallery number: Room 19 – Upper Floor

Period: Late Period (c. 664–332 BC)

Place of discovery: Memphite Region, Saqqara North, Animal Necropolei, Temple of Nectanebo II, Temple Terrace

Size: H 22.10 cm

Material: Bronze, gold

Isis was the goddess of motherhood, magic, fertility, healing and rebirth. According to the Heliopolis Ennead, Isis was the daughter of Geb, the god of the earth and goddess of the sky respectively, and was one of at least four siblings. She was also the sister/wife of Osiris, the god of the underworld and lord of eternity. Her brother Seth was the god of war, chaos and storms; and her sister Nephthys, wife of Seth, assisted in funerary rites, working with Isis in a protective role. In some versions of the mythology there is another brother, Horus the Elder (Horus the Great). Osiris was also the father of Horus (the younger).

According to Egyptian mythology, Osiris ruled Egypt, providing civilisation to his people through the knowledge of agriculture and the law. Seth was extremely jealous of his brother and killed him, dismembering and distributing the corpse throughout the many Nomes of Egypt. On the death of Osiris, Seth became king of Egypt with his sister/wife Nephthys. Isis mourned her husband, and with her great magical powers decided to find and bring him back to life. With the help of her sister Nephthys, Isis searched every Egyptian Nome, collecting the pieces of her husband’s corpse, reassembling and holding them together with linen wrappings. Isis breathed life back into his body to resurrected him and, soon conceived their child Horus (the younger). Osiris then descended into the underworld, where he became its ruler.

This statuette depicts the goddess Isis seated on a low-backed throne, suckling god Horus. Isis wears a long wig with the vulture headdress and a modius topped by a horned sun-disk on her head and a long sheath garment. Both her face and her dress are gilded, as is the sun-disk. Her left hand supports the head of Horus, who sits, leaning back slightly on her lap, while her right-hand cradles her left breast. Horus is naked except for a blue crown with a uraeus. The statuette is placed over a modern wooden throne and base.