Votive statuette of an Apis bull
Late Period, Dynasties XXVI-XXX, 664-332 BC
bronze, gold, electrum 13.5 x 3.7 x 11.3 cm
Gift of Miss Ola Cohn, 1950 (1007-D4)
The protection of Egypt and the created world has ensured by the veneration of the gods within temples, erected at the order of the king, in which priests delegating for him made the necessary offerings. They showed the deity in a form that enabled her/him to be identified and distinguished from others – images that could be anthropomorphic (Human form), zoomorphic (animal form) or a combination of both. The gods could also be represented by fetishes or sacred animals which made the divine presence more immediate.
From the late Period onwards the worship of sacred animals became extremely popular, vast number were mummified and interred in underground catacombs, and images of them were manufactured in profusion. One of the most famous if the Apis Bull, through which the will of Ptah, creator god of Memphis, was made manifest. It was buried in the Serapeum at Saqqara, and nearby were the burials of its mother, sacred to Isis. Apis burials date back Dynasty XVIII under the reign of Amenhotep III, but the veneration of the bull can be traced back to the beginning of Egyptian history. On the death of one Apis, another was born. The bull spent its life in a stall within a temple of Ptah; it was paraded at festivals and made oracular decisions on behalf of the god. Through association with Osiris, it acquired the power to assist worshipers in their next life.