The Egyptians wore amulets alongside other pieces of jewellery. They were decorative, but also served a practical purpose, being considered to bestow power and protection upon the wearer. Many of the amulets have been found inside the wrappings of mummies, as they were used to prepare the deceased for the afterlife.
Amulets held different meanings, depending on their type or form. Small amulets depicting gods and goddesses seem to have induced the protective powers of the deity. On the other hand, small representations of anatomical features or creatures suggest that the wearer required protection over a specific body part, or that he/she desired the skills of a particular animal. Amulets depicting animals were very common in the Old Kingdom Period, whilst representations of deities gained popularity in the Middle Kingdom.
The Egyptian god, Shu, was the divinity of light and air, personifying the wind and the earth’s atmosphere. He marked the separation between day and night, and between the living and the dead. He was particularly important to sailors, as they called upon his power to aid the ships’ sails. It is believed that his children, Nut (goddess of the sky) and Geb (god of the Earth) were infatuated with each other. Shu intervened, and held Nut above his head to separate the pair: in doing so, he created the atmosphere and the conditions required for life. Such is the position shown in this amulet, with Shu holding the sun elevated above his head.
To find out more about Ancient Egyptian amulets please see our relevant blog post: Egyptian Amulets and their Meanings: Ancient Egyptian Gods.