Ugly Object of the Month — December 2015

BY SUZANNE DAVIS, Curator of Conservation, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

This month’s Ugly Object is a limestone relief sculpture of Isis-Thermouthis. Like many of our previous Ugly Objects, it’s from the site of Karanis, which was a Roman-Egyptian farming village in the Fayum Oasis. One cool thing about the ancient Egyptian religion is that the pantheon was big, and you could choose from a wide variety of locally appropriate gods and goddesses. Isis-Thermouthis is a special agrarian deity, an Isis/cobra goddess combination who was responsible for protecting the harvest. This relief was found in a house at Karanis, and scholars have speculated that items associated with Isis-Thermouthis (like sculptures of her and votive offerings to her) were originally displayed in household shrines.

Limestone relief of Isis-Thermouthis. 2nd–4th century AD. KM 25751.

Like many of our Ugly Objects, this one has seen better days. It’s burned, and few surface details remain. For comparison, have a gander at this much better-preserved Isis-Thermouthis figurine at the British Museum. You can, of course, visit Isis-Thermouthis at the Kelsey Museum. This object is on the first floor of the Upjohn Exhibit Wing, in the case devoted to University of Michigan excavations.

December marks the final month of Ugly Objects for 2015. Readers, it is therefore time to vote for Ugly Object of The Year! The earlier Uglies are linked here:

June, July, August, September, October, November

Choose your favorite, tell us in this survey, and we’ll announce the winner in January 2016.

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