Painted Jar



The surface of this jar is painted with a scene of four crocodiles and eleven snakes around the body, and four scorpions around the shoulder. A jar like this offered the owner apotropaic protection on land and water. With this no harm could come from poisonous snakes and scorpions and one the most dangerous predators of the Nile, the crocodile. Purchased at Sotheby's, London, 26 June - 6 July 1922 (MacGregor Collection) Lot 1751/5: "A Vase, of inverted pear-shape, in buff terra-cotta, with short neck and projecting ring lip, decorated with crocodiles, scorpions and snakes in reddish-brown, 16 1/2in high, found on the east side of the Nile, opposite Gebelein (see Egyptian Cer. Art, MacGregor Collection, fig 64), also two cylindrical Vases, in red terra-cotta with decoration of diagonal lines from top to bottom, 11in high and 10 1/2in high, a wavy rim runs round each of the vases at about two inches from the lip; also two others, in light terra-cotta, of similar form, the decoration in marone and reddish-brown about 11 1/2 high, all of the Archaic period, the first two found at Negadeh". The jar was described by in Sotheby’s auction catalogue (authored by Percy Newberry) as being "found on the east side of the Nile, opposite Gebelein", which is Mo'alla, a location not normally known for Predynastic habitation or burial. However, in 2008-09 the Mo‘alla Survey Project of Yale University, discovered evidence for Predynastic and Early Dynastic activity in the Mo‘alla necropolis. How MacGregor obtained the jar is so far not known but could it be from Jacques de Morgan's 1895-96 excavations in the Gebelein area? The jar is the same design as a pot from Abadiya, grave B379 now in the Ashmolean Museum (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.