Frog

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A small free-standing bronze sculpture in the form of a frog. The animal has been rendered in a fully naturalistic manner, without any characteristic or attribute apart from its amphibian features.

Representations of frogs in their full animal form are known of in Ancient Egypt, although this was not common. There do exist many examples from the Late Period, a time when the production of animal amulets and small representations of deities was habitual. These were small, like this example, and were made from hard stone or faience. It is less common to find examples in bronze.

This amphibian became divine as Heqet, Egyptian goddess of fertility, identified with Hathor, and represented in the animal form of a frog or as a female with the head of a frog. The Egyptians, who took animal creatures and deified them in relation to their animal behaviour, considered that Heket was the goddess who watched over births and acted as midwife. She was also related to the annual flooding of the Nile. Heqet was held to be the wife of Khnum, who formed the bodies of new children on his potter’s wheel.

The beginning of her cult dates to the early dynastic period at least. Her name was part of the names of some high-born Second Dynasty individuals buried at Helwen and was mentioned on a stele of Wepemnofret and in the Pyramid Texts. Early frog statuettes are often thought to be depictions of her.

In the Osiris myth, it was Heqet who breathed life into the new body of Horus at birth, as she was the goddess of the last moments of birth. As the birth of Horus became more intimately associated with the resurrection of Osiris, so Heqet’s role became one more closely associated with resurrection.

As a fertility goddess, associated explicitly with the last stages of the flooding of the Nile, and so with the germination of corn, she became associated with the final stages of childbirth. This association, which appears to have arisen during the Middle Kingdom, gained her the title of “she who hastens the birth”.

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