This analysis focuses on the numerous figurines of rearing cobras that have been found in Ancient Egyptian settlement, military and administrative sites from Amarna northwards, and along the Mediterranean from the Libyan border to Syria.
Some of the cobras incorporate small offering bowls attached on the front, some protuberances that may represent smaller snakes, some are free-standing, others were attached to the inside of bowls.
The 650 fragments provide clues to the original function of the serpents—as votives, avatars, components of spells, apotropaic devices, or architectural elements—and their makers.
The figures constitute a rare material manifestation of the religious practices of people less visible in the formal textual record: children, women, and others on the fringe of society, who may have played an important role as agents in the transmission and development of religious practices in the Late Bronze Age.
The research team, which is led by Egyptologist Dr Kasia Szpakowska (pictured, above), is using modern experimental techniques and the latest camera technology to explore breakage patterns in replica figurines (left).
The multi-disciplinary research is being funded by the British Academy and the EPSRC through the Bridging the Gaps programme.