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 eagle was an important symbol in Ancient Egypt, as it was often associated with Horus, one of the most significant Ancient Egyptian deities. Horus was commonly depicted with the head of a falcon and was a sky god, who looked after the sun and moon. They were said to be represented in each of his eyes, and thus the Eye of Horus, also known as ‘Wedjat’, was an ancient symbol of protection, particularly for the afterlife, as well as possessing the ability to deflect evil.
For the Egyptians, gold was the most precious of materials. Its colour signified divinity; it was the metal from which the flesh of the gods was formed; and the Book of the Dead demanded that all amulets be made from it. Egypt is a land rich in gold, and ancient miners used traditional methods to harbour the natural resource. The hieroglyph representing gold was founded in the First Dynasty, but the earliest surviving gold artefacts come from around the 4th Millennium BC.
To find out more about Ancient Egyptian amulets please see our relevant blog post: Egyptian Amulets and their Meanings: Ancient Egyptian Gods.