Circa: 664 BC to 332 BC
Dimensions: 1" (2.5cm) wide
Style: Late Dynastic Period
Faience, which dates back to pre-dynastic times, of 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. In the cultural renaissance of the 26th Dynasty, also known as the Saite Period (when work was produced), a green, the color of the Nile and evocative of the verdant landscape in springtime, was particularly popular.
The ibis was a sacred bird in Ancient Egyptian mythology, most closely identified with the moon god Thoth, the messanger of the sun god Ra, who is often represented as an ibis-headed man or as a baboon. The name “Thoth” is actually the Greek term used to refer to this deity, whom the Greeks closely identified with Hermes, their messenger to the gods. Thoth, like Hermes, was credited as the inventor of astronomy, writing, and mathmatics. Here, Thoth is represented as an ibis, gorgeously rendered with dark blue glazed highlights added to his eyes, claws, and tail feathers. In front of the bird, just below his arching beak, a crouching woman is present. She can be identified as Maat, the wife of Thoth, recognizably by the relatively large ostrich feather that crowns her head. Maat was the personification of the fundamental order of the universe, without which all of creation would perish.