About this object

Hand-turned tall-shoulderd jar with a thickened rim. Decorated with a scene of four crocodiles and eleven snakes around the body, and four scorpions around the shoulder. This jar offered the owner apotropaic protection on land and water. With this no harm could come from poisonous snakes and scorpions and the most dangerous predator of the Nile, the crocodile. Once full of food it also provided sustenance in the afterlife.

Described by Percy Newberry in the 1922 'Catalogue of the MacGregor Collection' as being "found on the east side of the Nile, opposite Gebelein", which is the Mo'alla area. Could this be from Jacques de Morgan's 1895/6 excavations in the Gebelein area? The pot is the same design as a pot from Abadiya, grave B379 now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (E.2882); and similar to a jar decorated with crocodiles and snakes in Brooklyn Museum (no. 61.87). Petrie assigned the Ashmolean pot a sequence date of 60. For a discussion of this distinctive group of 'magical jars' see an essay by Diana Craig Patch, From Land to Landscape, in 'Dawn of Egyptian Art' (New York, 2011) pp. 79-81.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
    Predynastic Period (Naqada II)
  • Artist/Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Place made
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt
  • Date made
    3400 - 3300 BC
  • Materials
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    Gift of the Trustees of the Wellcome Collection
  • Collector
    Henry Solomon Wellcome
  • Place collected
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt: Mo'alla
  • Date collected
    Before 1898
  • Measurements
    280 mm x 195 mm
  • Note
    Photographs sent to Xavier Droux for his Oxford University doctoral thesis, 2014.
  • Related people
    William MacGregor (Previous owner); Wellcome Historical Medical Museum (Previous owner); Henry Solomon Wellcome (Collector)

Where is this object from?

Explore related


  • Catalogue of the MacGregor Collection of Egyptian Antiquities (Sotheby's 26 June - 6 July 1922)

    Newberry, Percy

    Author: Newberry, Percy
    Publisher: Sotheby's
    Date: 1922
    Description: Professor Percy Newberry was very familiar with MacGregor's collection and produced the text for Sotheby's catalogue. There is useful detail, such as where the objects were collected and some photographs.

  • Diospolis Parva. The Cemeteries of Abadiyeh and Hu 1898-9

    Petrie, William Matthew Flinders

    Author: Petrie, William Matthew Flinders
    Publisher: The Egypt Exploration Fund
    Date: 1901
    Description: Publication of the excavations directed by Flinders Petrie at the Hiw-Semaina region (Diopolis Parva) for the Egypt Exploration Fund.

  • Egyptian Ceramic Art: the MacGregor collection; a contribution towards the history of Egyptian pottery

    Wallis, H.

    Author: Wallis, H.
    Date: 1898
    Description: Catalogue of Revd. William MacGregor's collection.

  • Prehistoric Egypt Corpus

    Petrie, William Matthew Flinders

    Author: Petrie, William Matthew Flinders
    Publisher: British School of Archaeology in Egypt
    Date: 1921
    Description: Corpus of prehistoric pottery and palettes. Illustrations only.

  • The Making of Egypt

    Petrie, William Mathew Flinders

    Author: Petrie, William Mathew Flinders
    Publisher: The Sheldon Press
    Date: 1939


  • Sotheby's Auction House Sale of the MacGregor Collection 26 June - 6 July 1922

    Start date: 1922-06-26
    End date: 1922-06-26
    Description: Sale of Revd. William MacGregor's collection of Egyptian antiquities.


Previous owners

  • Wellcome Historical Medical Museum

    Owned from: 1922-07-06
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1971
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • William MacGregor

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1922-07-06
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
Object view = Humanities
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