Circa: 1550 BC to 1295 BC
Dimensions: 1.25" (3.2cm) high x 4.8" (12.2cm) wide
Style: 18th Dynasty
Faience, which dates back to predynastic times, at least 5,000 years, is a glasslike non-clay substance made of materials common to Egypt: ground quartz, crushed quartz pebbles, flint, a soluble salt-like baking soda, lime and ground copper, which provided the characteristic color. The dried objects went into kilns looking pale and colorless but emerged a sparkling "Egyptian blue." Called tjehnet by the Ancient Egyptians, meaning that which is brilliant or scintillating, faience was thought to be filled with the undying light of the sun, moon and stars and was symbolic of rebirth. Ancient Egyptians believed the small blue-green objects helped prepare them for eternity in the afterlife.
This faience bowl and others like it are sometimes referred to as “marsh bowls” by scholars. This name is derived from the decorative imagery that typically features marshland motifs. It is believed that marsh bowls served as votives offerings and were not used as tableware as is sometimes suggested. Fragments of similar bowls have been found at temples and shrines dedicated to the goddess Hathor, suggesting a link between these works and the deity. The aquatic imagery painted onto the insides of the bowls also alludes to fertility and rebirth while other motifs employed relate to the goddess more directly, such as sistra, masks, and overt representations of the goddess in her cow form. Less frequently, marsh bowls have been found entombed alongside the remains of the deceased as funerary offerings. In the burial context, the fertility imagery seems to suggest the concept of rebirth in the afterlife. The tombs in which such bowls have been excavated are non-royal and mostly female, furthering the link between Hathor and these works. Although nearly every bowl has been discovered empty, a few contained remnants of milky substances, suggesting they once held votive offerings to the goddess Hathor.