Sunday, July 22, 2018

Egyptian-Greek Lion Statue Containing Fossils at The Met

Recently, I visited New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art located at 1000 Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street. It is an amazing museum. According to Wikipedia it is the 3rd most visited art museum and 5th most visited museum of any kind in the world (as of 2016).  They have extensive artworks from cultures all around the world including ancient Egypt and Greece.

While art and paleontology do not often mix I was able to find a few fossils in an item at the ancient Egypt exhibit.

The fossils were found while visiting the 15 BC Egyptian-Roman Temple of Dendur room, to the right of the temple when facing it are a number of artifacts (see above image of room). One is a reclining lion statue with a number of visible foraminiferan Nummulites fossils on it. The statue is from the Roman period (second to third century A.D.) from Bubastis Egypt. It is made from what appears to be an Eocene limestone from Egypt. A Greek inscription is in the front of the statue that translates to "Thnepheros daughter of Pitikas dedicated for good". Greek custom at the time was to use lion sculptures as funeral monuments. The museum bought the statue from the Egyptian government in 1912.

As for nummulite shell fossils, ancient Egyptians used them as coins and their name is derived from the Latin nummulus meaning "little coin".  This type of limestone was used to construct the pyramids so they contain these fossils as well. Learn more at Wikipedia.