The Freud Museum

Human-headed Bird

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3286, Human-headed Bird, Ptolemaic Period; 332-30 B.C.

Artist: Photographer: Ardon Bar Hama
Culture: Egyptian
Material: Gessoed and painted wood
Dimensions: h. 5 in / 14 cm

This figure, with tripartite wig and colourfully painted details, probably once perched on a rounded wooden funeral stele, a type identified with the Ptolemaic period. The bird does not represent a deity, but instead the individuality, or ba, of the deceased. Ancient Egyptians believed a person divided into three elements at death: the ba, the body, and the life force, called the ka. Unlike the body and the ka, the ba could take the form of a bird and return to the land of the living, partaking in the earthly pleasures it left behind.

See this object on our Collections site here 

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