This object was discovered during the excavations directed by J. D. S. Pendlebury for the EES in 1932. The statuette is on a limestone base.
Here Thoth, the deity of wisdom and knowledge, is shown in his alternative manifestation as a baboon, with a lunar disc and crescent atop his head. In his lunar form, Thoth was associated with dates, time, accounting and astronomy – all subjects that needed careful scribal recording.¹ “In front of him squats cross-legged a scribe intent upon his papyrus roll, as if inspired by his patron god.”² Thus, this statuette reinforces the importance of Thoth to scribes and scholars. Its design suggests not only the superior status of the god – evident from Thoth’s elevated position, and the bowed head of the scribe – but also a close personal relationship between man and god, with the scribe listening attentively and taking dictation from the god.³
Everyone at Amarna during Akhenaten’s reign was expected to worship the Aten as a sign of loyalty to the king. However, not all paid heed to this, which is demonstrated by the existence of statuettes like this. This is significant as it highlights that people did not suppress the symbols of the old gods, although it was disapproved of by Akhenaten.
It was found at location O47.16a, in the “Waddington Workshop”, named after its excavators – a large-scale workshop producing items for royal and priestly patrons.4
¹ Gray, H., ‘Illustrating Ancient Egyptian Literature’
² Pendlebury, J.D.S., ‘A monotheistic utopia of ancient Egypt’, Illustrated London News, 182 (4907), 6 May 1933, p.630.
³ Peck, W.H., ‘Two seated scribes of Dynasty Eighteen’, The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology , 64 (1978), p.73.
4 Shaw, I., ‘Identifying New Kingdom craftsmen through archaeology and texts’, GRAFMA Newsletter, 7/8 (2004), p.107.
Thompson, K., ‘The “Waddington Workshop” at Amarna: its layout and products’, Paper produced at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt (2011).