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Collection Highlights

Amulet in the shape of a heart

Amulet in the shape of a heart
© BA Antiquities Museum/M. Mounir


showcase 4

Amulet in the shape of a heart

Category:
  • Religious / Cult objects, amulets, heart amulet (ib)
  • Tomb equipment, amulets, heart amulet (ib)
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period (332 BCE-395 CE)
Provenance:
Unknown
Material(s):
Man made material, faience
Height:
5.4 cm
Hall:
In the Afterlife, showcase 4


Description

 Amulet, in the shape of a heart, surmounted by a suspension loop.

The Heart

To the Egyptians, the heart was the most essential of organs, not because it pumped blood around the body (It is unclear whether they understood this function) but because they believed it was the seat of intelligence, the originator of all feelings and actions, the storehouse of memory, and, consequently, the source of an individual's identity. This is why it was the heart which was weighed in the balance of the underworld to determine if its owner was worthy to enter the Egyptian paradise or not.

Heart Amulets

Heart amulets, of New Kingdom date, are still relatively rare. Two of the earliest securely dated non-royal examples come from the burial of Akenaten's vizier Aper-el at Saqqara.
The heart amulet became one of the most important of all amulets and was set on every mummy until the end of the pharaonic period, often in numbers  and usually on the upper torso. They appear in a wide variety of materials, the most common of which is carnelian, basalt, hematite and glazed compositions. The heart depicted as amulet is usually identified as the bull's heart rather than the human type.
Four spells in the Book of the Dead ensured the heart's protection, and each was supposed to be inscribed on a heart-shaped amulet. Although most hearts amulets are uninscribed, their purpose was clearly the same.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • Andrews, Carol. Amulets in Ancient Egypt. London: British Museum, 1994.
  • Germer, Renate et al. Mummies: Life after death in Ancient Egypt. New York: Prestel, 1997.
  • D'Aria, Sue et al. Mummies and Magic: The Funerary Arts of Ancient Egypt. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1988.
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