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EC1025Carnelian claw amulet

This is a carnelian amulet measuring12 mm long, unfortunately broken at the top. Amulets like this are found on anklets of women in the Middle Kingdom. They are sometimes said to feline, and sometimes avian. Often they are carnelian like this example, but silver and gold examples have been found. Often they are strung with amethyst beads. A tomb depiction shows a dancer wearing claw anklets.

WarkThe tomb depiction right, is from the tomb of Wakhau II at Qau el Kebir (this is the only known depiction of a woman wearing claw anklets).

Such claw amulets are often said to be feline. Indeed the claw-amulets of Sithathoriunet at Lahun and Meret at Dashur were found with girdle beads representing lions or lionesses (Melandri 2012, 45, footnote 35). At this date royal women were often compared to cats (Graves-Brown 2010, 131-132)

However, another interpretation sees them as bird claws. Cloisonné work on the claw amulets of princess Khnumit at Dashur and Weret II also at Dashur (Melandri 2012, 51, figs. 5 and 6) suggests a feathered pattern.

Perhaps the claws were meant to be ambigious.


Such amulets are often found in the burials of young women and indeed Grajetski (2014, 160) suggests that jewellery like this appears to be normally found on young, elite women. Cowrie shell girdles and body chains are also found in such burials. Perhaps such dancer-like ensembles were part of the ritual accoutrements of elite young women, maybe even with hints of the reviving nature of the khener dancers (Morris 2011), and/or Hathor as the daughter of Re who revived her father.



Grajetzki, W. 2014.Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom. The Archaeology of Female Burials. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Graves-Brown, C. 2010. Dancing for Hathor. Women in ancient Egypt. Continuum Press.

Melandri, I. 2012. A new reconstruction of the anklets of princess Khnumit, Vicino Oriente XVI, 41-53.

Morris, E. F. 2011. Paddle dolls and performance. JARCE 47, 71–103.

Other Middle Kingdom items in the Egypt Centre

Other items of jewellery in the Egypt Centre