About this object

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 the most dangerous predator of the Nile, the crocodile. Once full of food it also provided sustenance in the afterlife.

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.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
    Predynastic Period (Naqada II)
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt: Mo'alla
  • Date made
    3400 BC - 3300 BC
  • Materials
  • Location
    World Museum, Level 3, Ancient Egypt Gallery
  • Acquisition
    Gift of the Trustees of the Wellcome Collection
  • Collector
    William MacGregor
  • Place collected
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt: Mo'alla
  • Date collected
    1898 before
  • Measurements
    280 mm x 195 mm
  • Note
    Photographs sent to Dr Xavier Droux (Oxford University) for use in this doctoral thesis, 2014.
  • Related people
    William MacGregor ( Collector, previous owner); Wellcome Historical Medical Museum ( Previous owner); Henry Solomon Wellcome ( Previous owner)

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.

  • 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.


  • 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

Object view = Humanities
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