This red breccia figure from the British Museum is of the Egyptian goddess Taweret. She is usually portrayed as a pregnant hippopotamus with the face of a lion. She is sometimes also shown the back of a Nile crocodile. The choice of a hippopotamus for a depiction of a deity may seem strange to us, but female hippos are renounced for their protection of their young and this must have been an image that appealed to the ancient Egyptians. Indeed, the female hippopotamus was a relatively common animal image use for protective deities associated with the birth and care of the young.
Taweret is found as early as the old Kingdom (2686 -2181 BCE) being mentioned in a few texts, but came into prominence in the Middle Kingdom (2055 – 1650 BCE) and continued into the new kingdom, the Ptolemaic and the Roman periods. Egyptian trade with other Mediterranean civilisations also led to the inclusion of Taweret into the religions of the Minoans in Crete, Mycenae in Greece and of the Nubians to the south (modern-day Sudan).