Object biography #7: A statuette of the Apis bull (Acc. No. 13000a-b)

8 days to go! We continue the countdown with a statuette of the Apis bull

Egypt at the Manchester Museum

Acc. no. 13000a-b. © Paul Cliff Acc. no. 13000a-b. © Paul Cliff

This small (8.2 x 7.5cm) copper alloy statuette depicts the sacred Apis bull – recognisable by the remains of a sun disk between its curved horns. The bull was at the centre of an elaborate cult, and was believed to be the earthly incarnation of the god Ptah. Only one living Apis was recognised at any one time, in a system not unlike the selection of the Dalai Lama. The sacred bull was selected by priests who travelled the length of the land looking for an animal with the correct markings. Once installed, Apis was housed in a temple on the outskirts of Memphis. There he was afforded ever luxury – including a ‘harem’ of cows – and was regularly visited by pilgrims, who interpreted his movements in relation to petitions put to him. After death, the bull was mummified and given an elaborate…

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