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On the function of ‘healing’ statues
in Mummies, magic and medicine in ancient Egypt
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The so-called ‘healing’ statues form a relatively small but well-studied category of monuments attested chiefly from between the 26th Dynasty and early Ptolemaic Period. They represent men of elite status, generally shown in a standing pose supporting a Horus cippus. Scholarly attention has tended to focus on the magico-medical texts of the statues, rather than the function and perception of the statues in context. The visual impact of the densely-inscribed statues, when viewed in temple spaces amidst other more traditional elite statue types, is likely to have been significant. Such a departure from the ‘norm’ is seen in New Kingdom chauves d’Hathor statues, where the peculiarity of the sculptural form was a means of attracting attention. ‘Appeal to the living’ texts on the healing statues make clear that the intended audience for the statues was among temple staff. Claims made in the statues’ inscriptions to ‘save everyone’ are part of an age-old rhetoric to persuade passers-by to offer to the deceased; in contrast to modern, egalitarian expectations about access to healthcare, those with physical and intellectual access to the statues are likely to have been restricted to a knowledgeable few, rather than a broader ‘public’ proposed by many commentators.

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Mummies, magic and medicine in ancient Egypt

Multidisciplinary essays for Rosalie David


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