Headrests were intended to support the head of the mummy, and were buried with the deceased with the intention of everyday use in the afterlife. Miniature versions were popular from the 26th Dynasty, often replacing larger versions.
Head rests were often made in a dark black stone, usually haematite, though obsidian could be used as a cheaper alternative. They were a vital accompaniment to burial, as it was thought that the raised head of the mummy would lead to resurrection and a continued life in the underworld. Chapter 166 of the Book of the Dead prescribes the headrest’s proper function, with its mention in this spell being testament to the object’s significance:
“Doves awake thee from sleep; they alert thee to the horizon. Raise thyself, (for) thou dost triumph over what was done against thee. Ptah has overthrown thy enemies. It has been commanded to act against him who acted against thee. Thou art Horus the son of Hathor, the fiery Cobra, of the fiery Cobra group, to whom a head was given after it was cut off. Thy head cannot be taken from thee hereafter; thy head can never be taken from thee…”
To find out more about Ancient Egyptian amulets please see our relevant blog post: Egyptian Amulets and their Meanings.