Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
- Author(s): Pinch, Geraldine
- Waraksa, Elizabeth A.
- et al.
The ancient Egyptian practice of dedicating small objects to deities as a means of establishing a lasting, personal relationship between deity and donor is well known. The dedication of votive objects in sacred areas such as temples, shrines, and cemeteries was an optional practice for which there is sporadic archaeological evidence. Large deposits of Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom votive offerings have been recovered from numerous sites throughout Egypt. There is no clear Middle Kingdom evidence that people were allowed to dedicate votive offerings in state-run temples, but the practice seems to have remained part of popular religion and is most visible in funerary contexts. During the New Kingdom, it became permissible for individuals to set up stelae or leave small votive objects in the outer areas of state temples or in special shrines. Most of the small votive offerings were made to Hathor, or related goddesses. In the Late and Ptolemaic Periods many stelae, ritual objects, and figures of deities were dedicated in sacred areas, often in relation to animal cults. The majority of votive objects seem to have been made in temple workshops for cult purposes. Most of the offerings fall into three main categories: representations of deities, objects used in the temple cult, or objects associated with human fertility. Both women and men dedicated votive objects to reinforce prayers or to perpetuate their involvement in a divine cult. It is rarely possible to be certain exactly why a particular object was offered or where it was originally displayed. Old votive objects remained sacred and were buried or dumped within temple precincts.