Amarna Amulets and Bezels (without cartouches) In the Egypt Centre
Most of the amulets here were made from faience.
Many thousands of moulds for the production of both amulets and ring bezels were found at Amarna. We have only one in the Egypt Centre (W915). Kilns have also been found at Amarna, and studied, most recently by Paul Nicholson, who has given an insight into how these operated. Finally, many hundreds of ring bezels and pendants have been discovered. It is possible that many more existed but were missed by earlier excavations. Boyce (1995, 361) states that as the earlier excavators concentrated on clearing buildings rather than open areas and as many pendants, especially from collars, may have been worn for festivals taking place in open areas, the excavators may have missed the most productive areas for finding pendants. The items from Amarna in the Egypt Centre are listed below.
Kate Bosse Griffiths (1980, 71-72) believed faience rings were only given to important people. However, while a number were owned by Tutankhamun, or at least found in his tomb, others were found in houses of commoners at Amarna (Boyce 1968, 168). Some were even found in the workmen’s village. Amulets too are found across the social strata (Boyce 1995, 339). It has been suggested that some rings may not have been worn as rings but rather suspended or even used as foundation deposits (Boyce 1989, 161). The size of some (too small or large to wear on a finger) suggests use as a votive offering or to be hung round the neck. All, including those with the names of kings, were probably amuletic.
Rings were made by casting ring and bezel in separate moulds (Boyce 1989, 162).
List of Egypt Centre Amarna Ring Bezels
W1150. Broken faience or glass bezel from Amarna of a lady musician with a monkey. The figure is twisted showing the naval and curve of the belly which is in keeping with the art of the period. The object was found in a house in the Northern City. Andrews (1994, 66-67) suggests the monkey symbolises sexual fulfillment. The monkey is shown in private tombs, particularly of the New Kingdom, under the tomb owner’s chair. See Kate Bosse Griffiths (1980), Stevens (2006, 46-47).
W1151. Open work ring bezel fragment with monkey or Bes from Amarna. See COA II plate XLIX ID 25. This is from T36.15. Many fragments of monkey sculpture have been found at Amarna (for example, see EC751 which is a rather eroded example of a monkey sculpture in the Centre’s collection). As well as being connected with sexual prowess, it seems the Egyptians were interested in the similarity between monkeys and humans and so from the Old Kingdom show them doing doing human type activities. In the Amarna period they are even shown in poses suggesting an ‘aping’ of the royal family. For example, monkeys are shown driving chariots. In other contexts monkeys also have solar significance and are shown, for example, welcoming the sun as it rises above the horizon. There are also very many Bes amulets from Amarna, and it is possible that this bezel represents him.
W1152. Faience ring bezel fragments in the shape of a fish. This appears to be a Tilipia (bulti). This fish hatches its babies in its mouth and thus is a symbol of rebirth. While this fish occurs in amuletic form as early as the Old Kingdom (Andrews 1994, 67), it is also popular on Amarna bezels.
W1153. Faience ring bezel fragment with open work eye in purple and white. Now (1998) in two pieces. Donated by the British Museum. The record card states this is 33.244 from the ‘Clerks House’ (See COA III pl LXXVII.7). The wedjat eye ring bezel appears to be the most common type at Amarna (Shaw 1984, 125).
W1155. Gazelle bezel. This animal was a common one for amulets. A number are shown in Petrie (1894 plate XVI) and the Egypt Centre example most closely approximates to 191 in that publication (later number ID.5 in COA II, 115).
W1155a. Centipede, hedgehog or gazelle?.
Pendants and other amulets
Boyce (1995, 358) in studying the pendants at Amarna found a number of faience moulds in T36 in the North suburb (concentrations of moulds are also found elsewhere), which would explain the concentration of pendants there. Györy (1989, 497) states that most amulets were found in dwelling places and waste heaps rather than temple areas or official buildings. They were found in both the North Suburb, North City, the Central City (though not the temple areas) and also in the workmen’s village.
Pendants appear to be worn in rows as collars or in single threads. Of the incomplete strings found (Boyce 1995, 337) states these are largely a single thread holding one row of beads with pendants placed at intervals. It is also possible that some pendants were worn as bracelets.
List of Pendants and Amulets in the Centre from Amarna
EC343. Cobra head and wedjet eye amulets.
EC3004. Fish amulet. Probably a mullet. See Andrews (1994, 93). Fish amulets sometimes appear in New Kingdom foundation deposits as offerings. They are usually worn in life but may occur on mummies. According to the Amarna database on the web, a fish amulet was found during the 1926 excavations of T36.5 outhouses. The find is numbered 26/783. Fish pendants at Amarna were more common in the North Suburb than the Central City (Györy 1998, 499).
W915. Black stone amulet mould for a cornflower, wedjet eye and three other items. Purchased by Wellcome from the MacGregor collection.
W961pBlue faience Bes amulet with Bes playing a tambourine. Such amulets seem to have been introduced in the Amarna period. The term ‘Bes’ is applied to a number of deities from the Middle Kingdom onwards. These deities tend to have leonine features and were connected with the sun god. He is often shown as a dwarf god, with a sticking out tongue and a leonine mane. Bes seems to have been a household deity particularly noted for protecting women and children. For more information and further references see Stevens (2006). Music was connected with fertility in ancient Egypt and so it is not out of place for a god associated with childbirth to carry a tambourine. In Papyrus Westcar musicians come to the birth of three children. In the much later temple of Hathor at Denderah, Bes is shown dancing and playing a tambourine and elsewhere a harp. This item is from the Royal Scottish Museum Edinburgh.
W1154. Crocodile amulet. Tiny faience crocodile amulet of Sobek, tail broken. Donated by the British Museum. See Andrews (1994, 36-7) and Stevens (2006, 51-52) for information on such amulets. The Egyptians had a dual attitude to crocodiles, Chapter 31 of the Book of the Dead is aimed at repelling these dangerous animals. However, the crocodile was also worshipped as Sobek, who if propitiated would do no harm. The crocodile was also a symbol of rebirth. See Frankfort, H. and Pendlebury, J.D.S. 1933, 6 for a similar type. There is also one in the Petrie Museum from Amarna (UC1181).
W1156. Faience pendant in the shape of captive head, from Amarna. Similar one from V36.13 See COA II plate XXIX, 1 for a similar type. See Stevens 2006, 43 for more information on amulets of foreigners.
W1158. Bull’s head amulet. Bull’s heads are shown on offering trays. A similar item can be seen in City of Akhenaten II, plate XXVIII, 6. See Berman, et al (1999, 518) for similar examples and further references. Györy (1998, 499) suggests that some of these may have been used in foundation deposits but others have suspension hoops and may have been hung.
W1228b. See Bosse Griffiths (1983). The mandrake appears to have had erotic connotations. Like other plants used in collars (e.g. lotus and grape) it also had a narcotic substance which some have suggested was important for religious festivals. For more information see Manniche (1999, 100-103). There is an example plus further references in Giddy (1999, 86). Györy (1998, 498) states that in the North Suburb every 5th vegetable amulet was a mandrake with an attachment for a bead above and one below.
References and Further Reading
Andrews, C. 1994. Amulets of ancient Egypt, London: British Museum Press for the Trustees of the British Museum.
Berman, L. M., Bohac, K. J., Griffin, P. S., Christman, D. B., Kozloff, A. P. and Art, C. M. o., 1999. Catalogue of Egyptian art: the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio: Clevland Museum of Art.
Bosse-Griffiths, K. 1980. Two Lute-Players of the Amarna Era. In Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 66, 70-82.
Bosse-Griffiths, K. 1983 The fruit of the mandrake in Fontes et Pontes. 62-74 (Republished in ‘Amarna Studies’ ed JG Griffiths 2001).
Boyce, A. 1989. Notes on the manufacture and use of faience rings at Amarna. In Kemp, B.J. Amarna Reports V. London: Egypt Exploration Society. 160-168.
Boyce, A. 1995. Collar and Necklace Designs at Amarna: A preliminary study of faience pendants. In Kemp, B.J. Amarna Reports VI. London: Egypt Exploration Society. 336-371.
Frankfort, H. and Pendlebury, J.D.S. 1933. The City of Akhenaten. Part II. The North suburbs and the desert altars. EES: London.
Giddy, L. 1999. Kom Rabi’a. the New Kingdom and Post-New Kingdom Objects, London: Egypt Exploration Society.
Györy, H. 1998. Remarks on Amarna Amulets in C.J. Eyre, ed. Proceedings of the 7th International Congress of Egyptologists September 1995.
Manniche, L. 1999. Sacred Luxuries-Fragrance, Aromatherapy and Cosmetics In Ancient Egypt‘ London, Opus Publishing.
Nicholson, P.T. and Peltenburg, E. 2000. Egyptian faience. In Nicholson, P.T. and Shaw, I. Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 177-194.
Petrie, W.M.F. 1894. Tell el Amarna. London.
Shaw, I. 1985. Ring Bezels at el-Amarna. In Kemp, B. ed. Amarna Reports I, London: Egypt Exploration Society, 124-132.
Stevens, A. 2006. Private Religion at Amarna. The material evidence. BAR International Series 1587.
Vandiver, P. and Kingery, W.D. 1987. Egyptian Faience: the first high-tech ceramic. In Kingery, W.D. ed., Ceramics and Civilisation 3, Columbus OH: American Ceramic Society, 19-34.