All these objects can be classed as ‘amuletic’ in that they are small items usually connected with the body which are protective. However, there are many other items in the Egypt Centre which have a similar function and are also amuletic. For example, the ring bezels in the upstairs gallery with the name of king’s upon them were intended to help the wearer gain some of the power of that king, as kings were in part gods. Mummy bandages inscribed with spells could also be amuletic. In this booklet we have divided amulets up into protective, possession and property, power, assimilation, etc. However, this is only one way of dividing them up and one amulet may also provide the wearer with power as well as protection.
The ancient Egyptian word for amulet was meket, nehet or, sa or wedja. The first three mean to guard or protect and the last means well-being.
Amulets were worn by the living as well as the dead. Some amulets, such as the four Sons of Horus and Anubis were particularly used for mummies, but other amulets, such as Bes, could also be worn in life.
We know a bit about the different amulets and their intended use from Spells in the Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts and Book of the Dead. There are also lists of amulets on temple walls and some Late Dynastic funerary papyri show how amulets were placed on mummies.
Very often the material from which the amulets were made was important to their use. So for example the red coloured cornelian amulets are connected with blood, aggression, energy and power. Many of the amulets here are made out of faience. Faience was easily moulded into a variety of shapes. It also had a religious significance as it is shiny like the blessed dead and the gods.