Circa: 664 BC to 30 BC
Dimensions: .5" (1.3cm) high x .4" (1.0cm) wide
Collection: Egyptian Antiquities
Style: Late Dynastic/Ptolemaic Period
The first examples of amulets appeared in Ancient Egypt as early as 4000 B.C. Believed to possess magical powers that protected the wearer or bestowed upon the properties they symbolized, amulets were worn both by the living as well as the dead. Throughout their evolution, talismans were crafted from a variety of materials including precious metals such as gold and silver, semiprecious stone like jasper and carnelian, as well as other more affordable glazed compositions such as faience. The particular powers of an individual amulet were based upon its specific shape, although the material and even the color of the charm could affect its magical abilities. While many of the amulets created to be worn by the living could also be worn after death, there also existed a specific group of charms that were made specifically to be placed upon the mummified remains of the deceased. All together, amulets represent an important class of Ancient Egyptian art that furthers our understanding of their complex religious beliefs.
Ancient Egyptians venerated cats for their ability to keep down the rodent population the economically important grain fields along the Nile. They were kept as pets in the home and assisted hunters by retrieving their small birds like dogs do today. Because they were economically useful and believed to ensure many children for a family, cats were so revered that they were mummified and buried either with their owners or in specially designated cemeteries. The Egyptians even had a cat goddess, called Bast or Bastet, who was depicted with the body of a woman and the head of a cat.