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Amulet

Egyptian, ca. 1086 - 30 BC
Stone

This tiny plaque amulet is inscribed with the name of the pharaoh Thutmoses III (ca. 1479 – 1425 BC) in a cartouche, or a symbol which indicates a royal name. The hieroglyphs on the amulet spell ‘Menkheperre’, which was Thutmoses III’s throne name. Ancient Eyptian pharaohs or kings were given five names which were used in hieroglyphic inscriptions and included their birth name and throne name. Thutmoses III was greatly respected and continued to be revered long after his death. His reign was one of the longest in Ancient Egyptian history, and he carried out many military campaigns. He built temples, and like other pharaohs was worshipped as a god. Amulets in the form of plaques or scarabs with his name were worn in the hope of gaining his favour and protection for hundreds of years, all the way up to the Ptolemaic period (323 – 30 BC).

Upper part of a statue of Thutmoses III, ca. 1479 – 1425 BC, limestone, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 07.230.3

The reverse of the plaque amulet has a sphinx with another tiny version of the cartouche with his name next to it. A sphinx is a mythical beast with the head of a man and the body of a lion. The sphinx is wearing the nemes headcloth with a rearing cobra at the forehead, which is usually reserved for pharaohs in Ancient Egyptian art. The sphinx therefore appears to have the head of Thutmoses III. Depicting a pharaoh as a sphinx, with the body of a strong lion, emphasised his divine power.  

Reverse of amulet, Chiddinstone Castle collection, object number 01.0081

Spinx of Thutmoses III, quartzite, ca.  1479 – 1425 BC, The Metropolitan Museum, accession number 08.202.6

The plaque amulet has a hole drilled through it so that it can be worn like a bead. It may have been worn as part of jewellery in daily life. The castle’s collection includes many tiny amulets and beads which depict gods, goddesses, animals, and hieroglyphs. Amulets were believed to provide protection and the favour of the gods.

This amulet may have been made as late as the Ptolemaic period (332 BC – 30 BC). The Ptolemaic period began after the arrival of Alexander the Great into Egypt in 332 BC. Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and brought Greek art and culture with him, but he did not erase Egyptian culture. The Ptolemaic rulers supported Egyptian religious beliefs and temple-building projects. Amulets of Greek-inspired gods and goddesses, such as Harpocrates who was the Greek version of Horus the child, appear during this period, but Ancient Egyptian amulets remained popular. Although Egypt had new Greek rulers, amulets depicting pharaohs in the style of Ancient Egyptian art were still worn.  

Faience head of a king wearing a crown, green faience, Ptolemaic Period, 332 – 30 BC, Chiddingstone Castle collection, object number 01.0420

Our object of the month can be viewed as part of a new display in the castle’s Egyptian Room, ‘Ptolemaic Amulets’. The display was curated by our collections volunteer Gillian Batchelor. The castle re-opens for visitors on Sunday the 31st of March.

This object is just one of the many objects that form part of Denys Eyre Bower’s five impressive collections which include Ancient Egyptian, Japanese, Buddhist, Stuart and Jacobite, and Books. For more information on these objects, review our Object of the Month series, visit the Historic House and Collections or contact our Curator, Naomi Collick by email or by calling 01892 870347.

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