Bronze staff in the shape of a uraeus

Egypt, early 18th Dynasty, 1550-1291 BC
From Thebes, Upper Egypt

This unique item is thought to have been a magician's wand. It was found inside the coffin of Mentuhotep by the archaeologist Howard Carter in 1911.

In ancient Egyptian mythology and religious iconography the serpent was a particularly potent image, so this staff must have had great ritual significance. Other items found in the tomb with it suggest that the owner was indeed a magician.

The serpent uraeus was considered to be 'the great enchantress' and was often depicted as a cobra with a human head (as on Tutankhamun's shrine), but it was also known for its protective attributes. It therefore appeared on the pharaoh's crown, from where it could spit fire and venom at the king's enemies.

There are many representations on Egyptian papyri and wall paintings of gods and demons holding serpents which resemble this staff. There is also a biblical account of the metamorphosis of Moses' staff into a serpent.

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Museum number

EA 52831



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