Carved from a hard mottled limestone, this ovoid stone vessel in the form of a frog has the everted rim and pierced lug handles typical of stone vessels of the Naqada culture. The eyes were drilled to receive inlays, most likely of ostrich shell. The front and rear legs of the animal are rendered in raised relief on the lower part of the vessel, with careful delineations to indicate webbed feet. The lug handles are covered in thick gold foil, and the mounts bear the traces of manufacture or intentional decoration in the form of strap-like appliqués. The appearance of gold embellishment on an elite Predynastic object is not without parallel, as demonstrated by the recent discovery of statuettes at Tell el-Farkha found entirely covered in gold foil attached with rivets.
A number of excavated Predynastic stone effigy vessels in the form of a frog are known, unusually from both cemetery and settlement sites in Upper Egypt. One example, now in the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, was found at Nag el-Deir in an especially imposing burial containing a rare example of a cylinder seal in Near Eastern style, in addition to other precious goods (see D.C. Patch, Dawn of Egyptian Art, no. 18). An example found in the Predynastic settlement at el-Mahasna is closer in style to the present example, with legs shown tucked under the body (now at the Penn Museum, see no. 17 in Patch, op. cit.). Based on recent research, stone vessels do not appear to have been produced at el-Mahasna, and thus may be finished items brought to the site from elsewhere.
The richly documented birth-related symbolism of frogs in Pharaonic civilization has led Patch (op. cit.) to suggest a similar function for these earlier frog-shaped stone vessels. Perhaps once containing a substance used before or during childbirth, the lug handles indicate that they were once suspended by string. The strong influence of Mesopotamia during the middle to later phases of the Naqada culture was long ago discussed by H.J. Kantor in direct reference to this type of vessel (see “Further Evidence for Early Mesopotamian Relations with Egypt,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 11, no. 4, pp. 242 and 245).