Circa: 664 BC to 30 BC
Dimensions: .8" (2.0cm) high x .25" (0.6cm) wide x .375" (1.0cm) depth
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 ancient Egyptians conceived of their country as two separate lands, north and south, which became a unified whole at the beginning of the dynastic period. This popular conception is probably based on the actual Predynastic division of the land into separate kingdoms. The pharaoh was believed to have special religious and political significance as the unifying force, which held the state together. This aspect of his role is frequently represented by the titular identification of the pharaoh as "ruler of the two lands". The pharaoh is sometimes depicted being ritually anointed by Nekhbet and Buto the goddesses of upper and Lower Egypt, respectively. Equally important in emphasizing the pharaoh’s role in unification were the crowns that he wore. The tall, conical, white crown was symbolic of Upper Egypt and the flat red crown symbolized Lower Egypt. The king was shown with either or wearing the double crown, which is the red crown surmounted by the white crown. This elegant faience amulet represents the white crown of upper (southern) Egypt, which was protected by the vulture goddess Nekhbet and the god Set. According to tradition, it was the king of Upper Egypt who emerged victorious from the legendary battle between north and south. Perhaps this amulet commemorates that ancient victory and is reflective of the pre- eminence of Thebes. - (CK.0238)