Vessel lids with depictions of shrews were common from the Late period. They would be offered up as votive offerings, complete with a mummified votive animal inside. Archaeological remains show vast quantities of small mummified animals, including shrews. It has been theorised that such naimals were reared and raised by temple priests for their votive purpose. The Egyptians associated shrews with multiple deities including the sun god Re, Horus and Atum. Being poor-sighted but still able to find their ways in the dark, the animal was identified with the nocturnal manifestation of Re, who safely traverses the dark regions of the underworld. On the other hand, shrews are often regarded as completely blind by the Egyptians and therefore they are linked to Horus-Henti-irti (“the one with no eyes”), who, as myth has it, was blind at birth. The god is the helper of his father, Osiris the judge and lord of the dead and the underworld. With these associations with important gods, shrews were elevated to a sacred animal in the Late Period.
Romano-Egyptian Bronze Vessel Lid with Shrew Handle
A finely modelled Romano-Egyptian bronze vessel lid, featuring a handle in the form of a shrew. The animal, depicted standing on a circular base, is rendered in a stylised manner with pricked ears, long and pointed snout, and a long, straight tail. To the lids rear is an integral loop, possibly where a hinge would have been attached.
Provenance: ‘The Ancient Menagerie Collection’ formerly the property of a Cambridgeshire lady, collected since the 1990s and acquired from auctions and dealers throughout Europe and the USA, now ex London collection.
Condition: Fine condition. Patination and some earthly encrustations to the surface.