Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
In the New Kingdom, amulets represented magic in miniature form.
At that time, the Egyptians frequently wore amulets proclaiming their devotion to the cult of major deities such as Thoth, god of wisdom, or Hathor, an ancient goddess associated with music and love. These charms were intended to provide protection from specific dangers. Amulets of birth-gods, for example, were believed to protect women during pregnancy and childbirth and to watch over a newborn in the first years of life.
In the Eighteenth Dynasty, certain amulets began to be placed within mummy bandages to guarantee life after death. The most common included wedjat-eyes, signifying the restoration of wholeness; tyt-amulets, emblems of the goddess Isis, who restored her dead husband Osiris to life; and flowers, traditional symbols of fertility. Beads inscribed with a person’s name ensured that the memory of the individual would survive throughout eternity.
So-called heart scarabs, known since the Thirteenth Dynasty, are frequently found on New Kingdom mummies. The Egyptians believed that a deceased person’s fate would be determined by weighing his or her heart against the “Feather of Truth” on a divine balance. Texts carved on heart scarabs prevented the deceased’s heart from revealing anything negative during the weighing ritual.
ca. 1539-1292 B.C.E.
2 7/16 x 11/16 x 7/8 in. (6.2 x 1.8 x 2.3 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Figure of the Ibis-headed Thoth. He strides with hands empty at his sides. An eyelet for suspension appears on the rear.
Ibis-Headed Thoth, ca. 1539-1292 B.C.E. Ivory, 2 7/16 x 11/16 x 7/8 in. (6.2 x 1.8 x 2.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.255E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.37.255E_NegH2_print_bw.jpg)
. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
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