String of gold amulets

From Egypt
17th-18th Dynasty (about 1650-1295 BC)

This group of amulets consists of trussed ducks and wallet beads, between a double lotus blossom and a snake's head. Each element has a protective or magical purpose. The wallet bead is so called because of its shape and the resemblance to the curved and stitched edge on a wallet. This form developed in the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC), from the cowrie shell often used in women's girdles in the Middle Kingdom (2040-1750 BC). Like the cowrie shell, the wallet bead is perhaps linked with fertility.

The use of plants and flowers as amulets and as jewellery elements were very popular in the New Kingdom. All plants were symbolic of new life, but the lotus, which opened every morning, was particularly associated with resurrection.

Trussed animals, such as cattle, might represent food offerings. Ducks are typically shown in this way on offering tables in tombs and temples. The pose in which the duck's neck is shown twisted has been interpreted as one of a sleeping bird, and symbolic of resurrection. Snakes' heads were depicted in the interior friezes of Middle Kingdom private coffins. They first appear as amulets in burials of the New Kingdom and may, perhaps, have been intended as protection against snake bites.

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More information


C.A.R. Andrews, Amulets of Ancient Egypt (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

C.A.R. Andrews, Ancient Egyptian jewellery (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)


Length: 15.500 cm

Museum number

EA 14696


Acquired in 1872 from the collection of Alessandro Castellani


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