Circa: 664 BC to 30 BC
Dimensions: 1" (2.5cm) high x .5" (1.3cm) 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.
The grinning dwarf god Bes was one of the most popular deities in the Egyptian pantheon, one whose worship was absorbed almost intact into Hellenistic culture. He was a popular subject for amulets, and part of his appeal appears to have been the perception that he was more accessible and willing to listen to the common man than were the intimidating national gods such as Amun, Osiris, or Horus. In addition to being a patron god of music and art, Bes was believed to protect mankind from all evil and malevolence and thus is a fitting subject for amulets. He was also held to be a protector of pregnant women, amusing them during childbirth so that they forget the pain. Bes is usually depicted as a dwarf with a face that is both leonine and human. - (CK.0237)