Buchis Bull Stela of Ptolemy V

Artefact Details

Gallery number: 34 – Ground Floor

Period: Ptolemaic Period, reign of Ptolemy V Epiphanes (c. 204–180 BC)

Place of discovery: Southern Upper Egypt, Armant, Bucheum

Size: H 73.00 cm W 50.00 cm D/L 16.00 cm

Material: Limestone, gold, pigment (unspecified)

Dedicated by Ptolemy V to the god Buchis, the sacred bull who identified with the war god Montu that was worshipped at Armant, this round-topped stela was discovered in the underground necropolis known as Bucheum, which was devoted to the burials of Buchis’s earthly embodiments. Stelae such as this one was discovered in their thousands and were marked for each burial in the Bucheum.

Buchis was first mentioned in Egyptian religion during the 30th Dynasty in the reign of Nectanebo II. He was represented as a white bull with a black face, but according to the classical author Macrobius, his colour changed each hour of the day.

This stela is protected at the top by a winged sun-disk, representing Horus of Edfu, under which a scarab and a djed pillar (the symbol of the god Osiris) is flanked by two uraei and two crouching jackals. The body of the stela is separated from the upper register by the hieroglyphic symbol of the sky. The second register depicts Ptolemy V seen in an Egyptian king’s robes, offering the hieroglyphic sign for fields to a statue of Buchis Bull, who is crowned with a sun-disk with two uraei and double feathers. The gilded statue is placed on a gilded base and protected by a hovering falcon, an allusion to the sky and sun gods Horus and Re, holding a fan and a shen-ring (symbol of infinity).

Five horizontal lines of hieroglyphic text in the third register provide details of the dedication of the stela, made by Ptolemy V and his consort, Cleopatra I, in the 25th year of his reign.