Variable of the Day, Ancient Egypt: Pinky gesture


Egyptian art Seti Abydos

Temple of Seti I at Abydos

NOTE: This gesture, where the king extends his pinky finger, is used to apply ointment to a deity.  In his other hand, the king holds the jar of ointment.  Usually, the ointment is actually shown as being applied to the god’s uraeus rather than to the deity themselves.  This gesture may have an apotropaic aspect, suggesting that in the act of applying ointment, it may have been considered inappropriate to have physical contact with the god, although this is implied as part of the ritual.  Often, as in this example, the king’s finger is not shown making actual contact.  This gesture is tracked as an individual variable in the database.

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  1. van HOORN, Jacobus06-09-2013

    subject: Pinky gesture.

    Excellent description.

    ‘Steff’ / Stefanie X at the UCL / Louvain-la-Neuve, made 10 years ago (professor C.Obsomer), a large study on gestures (gestures not noticed by modern homo to much erectus).
    Example : why is the divinity (is it Hwt-hr ?) making ‘nini’ (on both painted sides) of TAA sarcophagus room walls … (see sign ‘n’ on both her hands)

    • Art of Counting07-05-2013

      Thank you for the comment and the reference. It is an interesting question.
      Gesture is so specific and clearly important! It is complex to track, but we are working to record these discrete elements of gesture and body position so that patterns can be identified.

The Art of Counting is dedicated to the memory of Margery Meilleur, who first taught me to view history through the eyes of the images we create.