Circa: 664 BC to 30 BC
Dimensions: 1" (2.5cm) high x .3" (0.8cm) 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 ibis was a sacred bird in Ancient Egyptian mythology, most closely identified with the moon god Thoth, the messanger of the sun god Ra, who is often represented as an ibis-headed man or as a baboon. The name “Thoth” is actually the Greek term used to refer to this deity, whom the Greeks closely identified with Hermes, their messenger to the gods. Thoth, like Hermes, was credited as the inventor of astronomy, writing, and mathmatics. He presided over scribes and knowledge, as has been described in ancient text as a conciliator among the gods whose words were able to bring order to the warring factions of Egypt. In this charming amulet, Thoth is represented as an ibis-headed man standing with one leg forward upon a low rectangular base with his arms clutched against his sides. It is possible that this amulet was once worn by a scribe who hoped to invoke the favor of this powerful deity. - (CK.0219)