August 19, 2011

Egyptian Amulets – Protection Through Ancient Gods

Faience lion and Taweret, goddess of fertility.
What is an amulet? It is a small token or talisman, a precious and portable expression of devotion and the hope for protection from disease, death, infertility, or a myriad of other calamities. "In ancient Egypt, such apotropaic [protective] devices could be fashioned from regular materials — such as stone, ivory, metal, glass, and clay — or faience," explains Samuel Merrin, owner of an antiquities gallery on Fifth Avenue.

Faience is a moldable, self-glazing glassy frit — a baked material composed of quartz, lime, copper, and an alkali. When it was first developed during the late Predynastic Period (ca. 3000 BC), faience was invariably blue-green in color. Later, other colors were achieved. But the original tonalities imbued the material with magical significance, making it much more precious than it's combined components. Egyptians believed that the color blue-green connoted vitality and eternal life.

August 9, 2011

Egyptology – Funerary Shabtis of Ancient Egypt

The origin of the shabti in ancient Egyptian civilization is a debated issue. Nevertheless, by the time of Dynasty XII of the Middle Kingdom (about 1991–1782 BC), shabtis gradually become a fixed feature of the funerary panoply of elite members of Egyptian society.

“Contrary to popular opinion, these statuettes were not anciently regarded as servants who might magically attend to every whim of their owners. Rather, they were intended to serve as surrogates for both aristocrats and pharaohs of both sexes who were expected to respond to the roll call in the hereafter,” illuminates Samuel Merrin of the Merrin Gallery in New York.

Also known as an ushabti, the word “shabti” derives from the ancient Egyptian word for “the responder”. They were to perform specific work of an enigmatic nature which primarily entailed the cultivation of fields, the irrigation of the river banks, and “the ferrying of sand of the east to the west and vice-versa”.

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