- Museum number
Fish amulet: this amulet, representing the 'tilapia' or 'bolti' fish, called in Egyptian 'nekhau' is made from a sheet gold frame or cloison, which encloses a flat green feldspar inlay. The sheet gold tail and fins with striated markings are soldered to the cloison. There is a ring for suspension at the nose.
- Production date
- 1900BC-1800BC (circa)
Height: 1.90 centimetres
Length: 2.80 centimetres
Weight: 1 grammes
Thickness: 0.20 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Companion to fish amulet (1899,0314.36).
Fish amulets were attached to the end of the plait of a child or young female as a charm against drowning. Presumably its magic worked by aversion, it was a reminder of the watery environment its wearer wished to avoid. However, the 'tilapia' also symbolized regeneration. The amulet's first mention is in a literary text known as the Westcar Papyrus, which dates to the Middle Kingdom, the time of the nekhau's greatest popularity. Contemporary representations depict it being worn as described. This form of fish amulet, with central green stone inlay, is exactly like the one which was lost by one of King Snuffer's harem girls as she rowed him on the lake, for in the Westcar text she refers to her "nekhau of fresh turquoise." Feldspar was always considered an acceptable substitute for turquoise, which was only ever obtained from the copper mining region of Sinai.
The British Museum, 'A Guide to the Third and Fourth Egyptian Rooms' (London, 1904), 220, no. 387;
E. A. Wallis Budge 'A Guide to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Egyptian Rooms, and the Coptic Room' (London, 1922), 93, no. 387;
J. Garstang, ‘el Arabah’ (London, 1901), 4;
C. Andrews, 'Egyptian Treasures from the British Museum' (London, 1998), p.272, cat.no.85;
E. Strouhal, 'Life in Ancient Egypt', (Cairo, 1992), p.154, fig.169;
G. Hart, 'Eyewitness Guides: Ancient Egypt', (1990), p.12;
Egyptian Treasures' [exhibition catalogue] (Shanghai 1999), p.262-3 No 80.
D. Antoine and M. Vandenbeusch, Egyptian mummies. Exploring ancient lives, Sydney 2016, pp. 158-9.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2016-2017 10 Oct-30 Apr, Sydney, Powerhouse Museum, Ancient Lives
2017 16 Jun-18 Oct, Hong Kong Science Museum, Ancient Lives
2017-2018 14 Nov-20 Feb, Taiwan, National Palace Museum, Ancient Lives
2018 16 Mar-22 Jul, Brisbane, Queensland Museum of Art, Ancient Lives
2019-2020 14 Sept- 28 Jun, Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, Ancient Lives EXTENDED DUE TO COVID19
2020-2021, 19 Sept - 21 Mar, Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, Ancient Lives
2021-2022 9 Oct - 10 Jan, Tokyo, Museum of Science and Nature, Mummies of Ancient Egypt: rediscovering six lives (Egyptian Mummies 2)
2022 5 Feb- 8 May, Kobe City Museum, Mummies of Ancient Egypt: rediscovering six lives (Egyptian Mummies 2)
2022 14 Jul - 26 Oct, Madrid, CaixaForum, Mummies of Ancient Egypt: rediscovering six lives (Egyptian Mummies 2)
- Acquisition date
- Egypt and Sudan
- BM/Big number
- Registration number