Bes Jar



Wheel-made jar (or jug) of fine marl clay with one vertical handle, long cylindrical neck, ridge around rim, and ring base. On one side is an image of the god Bes modelled in incised and applied relief decoration. Part of the neck is broken and missing. While some gods had their own temple, others were worshipped in the home. These lesser gods were sometimes called ‘demons’ and were scary-looking to frighten off harmful spirits. Bes, a fun-loving god, drove away evil forces. His image appears on household objects like mirrors, cosmetic pots and wine jars. Early images of Bes show him as a lion-legged man with a mane and tail. Over time his image changes and he becomes smaller but he keeps the lion’s mane and carries knives or a tambourine. CONDITION NOTE (1998): Incomplete, area of neck missing, chipped, abraded surface, surface dirt, label adhered to surface. Stuck to the surface, near the base, is a rectangular sticker, white with ornate blue border, with “Fayoum Egypt” written in dark ink. On this is another sticker, white and elliptical in shape, with Hilton Price's collection number “3345” printed in red ink. “Fayoum” is written in pencil on the base. Ex Frederick George Hilton Price collection, sold at Sotheby's, London, 12-17 July 1911. Lot 757/9: "Nine Pottery Vases of varied form, date and provenance; one (3345) of light pottery, from the Fayoum, has a rude head of Bes modelled on the front. And a very remarkable pottery Model of Archimedes' cylindrical apparatus of spirally-arranged tubes for raising water from the Nile for irrigating purposes; (3797); from Lower Egypt, and probably unique". Compare with an example in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London (UC 2888) which has an almost exact shape and decoration; Compare with an example in Birmingham City Museums (W1138) which is also originally from the Wellcome Collection and considered to be from the collection of Martyn Kennard (dated to Dynasty 26 - 29). See, Janine Bourriau, 'Umm el-Ga'ab. Pottery from the Nile Valley. Before the Arab Conquest ' (1981), p. 83 [no. 160].