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Document Details :

Title: Elephant Statuettes in the Nubia Museum, Aswan
Subtitle: Implications for our Understanding of Elephants, Meroë and its Interaction with Ptolemaic Egypt
Author(s): CHARLES, Michael B. , SINGLETON, Michael
Journal: Ancient Society
Volume: 49    Date: 2019   
Pages: 207-229
DOI: 10.2143/AS.49.0.3286886

Abstract :
The article seeks to develop a greater understanding of two previously undescribed elephant statuettes held in the Nubia Museum, Aswan. These elephant statuettes, one of which bears an armed rider, are claimed to emanate from the Kushite kingdom of Meroë, which clearly had some sort of interest in elephants, as evidenced by representations at the enigmatic complex of Musawwarat es-Sufra. The statuettes, whose provenance is unknown but are seemingly devoid of Hellenistic influence, could add weight to views that Meroë trained elephants for war, and perhaps even supplied Ptolemaic Egypt with war elephants. Yet the unrealistic nature of the warrior’s depiction, when taken together with (a) the non-military nature of other Meroitic elephant depictions and (b) the failure of any Greco-Roman writer to record Meroitic war elephants in battle, remains problematic. Our discussion suggests that, if Meroë did keep or train elephants, they were used to advertise Meroitic power in a more symbolic way, and so their depiction in these statuettes, particularly with respect to the mounted animal, might be more fanciful than accurate.

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