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Faience amulets: the Sons of Horus

 

Length: 14.600 cm (max.)

EA 26230

Room 62-63: Egyptian mummies

    Faience amulets: the Sons of Horus

    From Egypt
    Perhaps early Third Intermediate Period, 1079-800 BC

    Protective deities for the deceased

    Many ancient Egyptian deities were concerned with the protection of the deceased, but four are particularly interesting. They are the Sons of Horus, whose existence dates back at least to the Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC). Over time each of the sons of Horus, with their distinctive heads, became identified as protecting one of the internal organs (viscera) removed from the body during the mummification process. The stomach was protected by Duamutef (jackal), the liver by Imsety (human), the lungs by Hapy (baboon), and the intestines by Qebehsenuef (falcon). These items were placed in canopic jars, and from the later New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC), the lids of the jars often bore the heads of the four deities. The Museum has some particularly fine examples, including the canopic jars of Neskhons.

    For a short period in the Twenty-first Dynasty (about 1069-945 BC), it became the custom to return the mummified viscera to the body. Around this time amulets in the form of the four Sons of Horus begin to be placed with the viscera inside the mummy. However, most examples in amulet form date to much later, when they are sewn onto the bead nets that were used to cover the body.

    This set of figures is a particularly elaborate one, made of white faience with the wigs and other details painted onto the body colour. There are three recessed holes on the reverse for thread, so that they could be sewn onto the bandages of the mummy.

    F.D. Friedman (ed.), Gifts of the Nile: ancient Egy (London, Thames and Hudson, 1998)

    C.A.R. Andrews, Egyptian mummies (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

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