Shells amulet-pendant, c. 4500 BC

Shells amulet-pendant, c. 4500 BC
Period:Egypt, Predynastic Period, Predynastic Period
Dating:4500 BC–4000 BC
Origin:Egypt, Upper Egypt
Material:Shell (marine)
Physical:5.8cm. (2.3 in.) - 10 g. (.4 oz.)

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Links to others from Predynastic Period

Fish cosmetic palette, 4000-3500 BC
Macehead, Merimde, c. 5100 BC
Macehead, Merimde, c. 5100 BC
Prehistoric axe, Merimde, c. 5100 BC22

Links to others of type Amulet

Amulet of Duamutef, Dyn. 25
Amulet of god Thoth as a Baboon, Dyn. 18
Amulet of Imsety, Dyn. 25
Amulet of Pataikos, Dyn. 26
Amulet of Ptah-Sokar, Dyn. 20-21
Amulet of Shu, Dyn. 26
Amulet-pendant of Sakhmet, Dyn. 22
Blue glass amulet, Palestine, c. 450 AD
Bronze Nefertem pendant amulet, Dyn. 25
Djed pillar, amulet of powers, Dyn. 26
Faience amulet of Anubis, 525-334 BC
Faience amulet of Qebhsenuef, Dyn. 25
Gilded ib, heart amulet, Dyn.18
Gilded mkrt, snake amulet, Dyn. 18
Gilded ‘tit’ (girdle of Isis) amulet, Dyn. 18
Glass jug amulet, Palestine, c. 450 AD
Glass jug amulet, Palestine, c. 450 AD
Glass jug amulet, Palestine, c. 450 AD
Glass jug amulet, Palestine, c. 450 AD
Glass jug amulet, Palestine, c. 450 AD
Glass jug amulet, Palestine, c. 450 AD
Horus-the-child, Meroe, 590-300 BC
Large amulet of Pataikos, Dyn. 20
Large amulet of Pataikos, Dyn. 20-21
Palm leaf amulet, Dyn. 18-19
Palm leaf amulet, Dyn. 18-19
Sakhmet amulet pendant, Dyn. 18
Sky Goddess Nut as a sow, 1085-760 BC
Two-fingers mummy amulet, Dyn. 26
Upper Egypt crown amulet, Dyn. 26
  Two snail shells held together by a refined loop of decoratively twisted bronze constitutes a type of amulet, probably worn as a pendant, from the Badarian predynastic period (4500-4000 BC).

A similar item was documented by Petrie (Petrie 1914:27 #113b) as follows:

Period. Late Prehistoric to VIth Dynasty.
Figures. 113a ... 113b, bone, (idem this two shells necklace), 113c... 113d...
Materials. Shells, Sard 2, green felspar1, bone 1.
Position. Necklace.
Collection. University College P. 4, and shells.

“In dynastic times all such forms would come to be imitated in materials such as precious metal and semi precious-stones” ( Andrews 1994:9).

Thousands of years later, shell amulets are still considered in Africa to have special powers.

Note: We wish to thank Greg Campbell of Portsmouth, England for bringing to our attention the incorrect snail species identification we had previously published.

Amulets are objects generally kept on the person that are believed to confer some benefit to the wearer. While turn of the century archeologist Flinders Petrie (1914) enraged that “the belief in the magic effect of inanimate objects on the course of events is one of the lower stages of the human mind in seeking for principles of natural action. . .”, he had to concede that the use of amulets, talismans, and charms is very ingrained in many cultures to the present day. Many of us use lucky pens and wear religious medals without believing literally in their powers to affect our lives. But we still use them. They help us muster the confidence we need in times of self doubt. They empower us to dare, to believe in ourselves, to heal ourselves. Egyptians may have felt the same way. They used amulets on themselves and on their dead. Egyptians also seem to have had a passion for jewelry, and amulets were a good excuse to wear more jewelry.

Egyptians created an astonishing variety of amulets. The Dendera Amulets List, engraved on the thickness of a temple doorway, shows 104 different amulets for funerary use. The MacGregor Papyrus shows and names each one (Andrews 1994:7). Petrie described some 270 kinds of amulets in his 1914 monograph on the subject, and yet it was published before the excavation of many sites rich in amulets! He devised a classification system which, for all its flaws, is useful and still stands as no worse than any devised since to put order in that which defies classification: “The various ascertained meanings may be completely put in order under five great classes… (I) the amulets of Similars which are for influencing similar parts, or functions, or occurrences, for the wearer; (II) the amulets of Powers, for conferring powers and capacities, especially upon the dead; (III) the amulets of Property, which are entirely derived from the funeral offerings, and are thus peculiar to Egypt; (IV) the amulets for Protection, such as charms and curative amulets; (V) the figures of Gods, connected with the worship of the gods and their functions… Our classes then are here called amulets of

Similars, or Homopoeic.
Powers or Dynatic.
Property or Ktematic.
Protection or Phylactic.
Gods or Theophoric.”
(Petrie 1914:6 #17)

The evolution of amulets follows a fairly logical path. The first amulets were natural objects such as shells, and symbolically charged body parts of animals, such as claws from birds of prey. Then, still in predynastic times, we find figurines of significant animals, such as the hippopotamus, falcon, and jackal. Through the Old Kingdom, there was a development of animal forms with increasing levels of sophistication, and by the middle of the Old Kingdom we find the abstract symbolic subjects (such as the Ankh (sign meaning “life”), the Udjat eye of Horus, the Djed pillar, and the scarab) which remain some of the most emblematic symbols of Egyptian culture. During the First Intermediate Period we find amulets representing human body parts (ear, tongue, hand, arm, phallus, leg, heart...). The Middle Kingdom expanded the whole range of objects and gave the scarab its final form. But despite this considerable repertoire, amulets representing major gods remained rare until the end of the New Kingdom, at which time they suddenly flourished, and became as a group the most prevalent type until the end of Dynastic history. (Andrews 1994)

Bibliography (for this item)

Andrews, Carol
1994 Amulets of Ancient Egypt. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX. (8)

Petrie, W.M. Flinders
1914 Amulets. Constable & Company, London, UK. (6 # 17
27 # 113 b
plate XIV)

Bibliography (on Amulet)

Andrews, Carol
1994 Amulets of Ancient Egypt. University of Texas Press, Texas.

Petrie, W.M. Flinders
1914 Amulets. Constable & Company, London, UK.

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