Funerary Amulets


Funerary amulets were consistently placed on the body or mummy between the 13th  to 18th  dynasties.  In the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, the amulets would be found scattered throughout the body.   The amulets mentioned here, are just a few that have been consistently found on mummies.  In addition, there would also be tokens of food, jewelry, or other valuables buried with the mummies that would serve them in their afterlife. 


Book of the Dead

The Book of the Dead reads:


Hail, Father Osiris!  I shall possess my body for ever; I shall not be corrupted; I shall not disintegrate; nor will I fall prey to worms.  I exist. I am alive.  I am strong.  I have awoken and am at peace.  There is no destruction in my organs, or in my eyes; my head has not been removed from my neck…my body is permanent; it will not perish; it will not be destroyed in this eternal land.[7]


The Book of the Dead was on a roll of papyrus and placed in the coffin with the deceased.  It contained “spells” to help guide and protect the deceased to their journey into their afterlife. The hieroglyphics had scenes that had depicting a “map of the afterlife”, so they could “find the way to the kingdom of the blessed”.[7]   Ancient Egyptians believed the deceased were confronted with a series of tests and the Book of the Dead contained the magical spells to assist their passage.  The Book of the Dead didn’t appear until the New Kingdom, and it is a combination of spells from the Coffin Texts (which were inscribed on the walls of the Middle Kingdom sarcophagi) and the Pyramid Texts (which were engraved on the walls of the chamber tombs in the royal pyramids dating back as far as the 5th dynasty.  There are different versions of the Book of the Dead, and no single papyrus contains every spell.  There are other funerary books; Book of Gates, the Book of Caverns, and the Book of Douat (Kingdom of the Dead) and What it Contains, but these texts were believed to be reserved for royalty.[7] 


(Sample of the Book of the Dead of the scribe Nebqed, around 1300 BC)[14]



The Heart-Scarab (Beetle)


This amulet was used form the late Middle Kingdom until Roman times and it was usually made of a hard green stone.  It would usually be situated within the bandages of the mummy placed over the heart.  In some mummies the heart scarab has been found on a wire around the neck or mounted on a small rectangular slab on the chest. Within the Book of the Dead, the text  of Spell 30b, the objective of the heart scarab was to prevent “the heart from giving evidence against the deceased in the Judgment before Osiri…these amulets were originally designed to replace or stimulate the functions of the dead man’s back, his blood and his heart respectively.” [11]   There was great concern that the heart of the deceased would not pass the “scales of Truth” in the presence of Osiris and would be condemned.   The scarab also signifies the symbol of “self-created life and resurrection.”[11] ­  Others have noted in the Book of the Dead, spells 76-88 were translated, and  ‘scarab’ means ‘to transform oneself’ so the “amulet which was to bear the heart-spell …will enable the deceased to make all transformations according to the dictates of his heart.” or to transform one’s self  back to his original form for life in the afterworld.[11]  The scarab beetle was also the symbol of the  Sun-god, “the principle of life out of nothing.  The amulet was intended  to stimulate the dead heart once more to life.” [11] 


The Two Fingers

This amulet was explained as “the two fingers of Horus which the latter extended to his father Osiris, in order to assist him to mount to the top of the heavenly ladder”.[11]  This belief was not translated from the Book of the Dead, but from the Pyramid Text, the oldest found hieroglyphs of spells,[12] and it stated that the deceased king, “springs up to the sky, to the two fingers of the god, the lord of the ladder”. [11] Another theory for this amulet is that symbolizes the two fingers of Anubis, the embalmer of Osiris.  This is because the amulet was usually found on the left side of the pelvis where the first incision was made, into which the two fingers of the embalmer may have been inserted at the start of the mummification process.[11] 


The Name-bead

 The amulet was usually just worn around the throat of the mummy, with the name of the deceased.  It was in the shape of a barrel or flattened bead and made out of carnelian, which is a pale to deep reddish brown of clear chalcedony (which is also a translucent to transparent grayish quartz with microscopic crystals).  The name beads were found in the Middle Kingdom coffins or anthropoid coffins.  Some beads were also found to have short text inscribed on it, “Works spoken by Osiris…’Give light to Isis with (or as?) the brilliant one!”. [11]


The Serpent-head amulet


 This amulet is a representation the uraeus, a figure of the scared serpent, worn by the Sun-god, to help protect the dead from the dangerous serpents of the Underworld.  The belief was the deceased laying in the tomb could possibly be bitten in the throat, so the amulet could protect the deceased.”[11]


“The deceased person is, for the purpose of the spell, identified with Isis, possibly in reminiscence of the protection afforded by Re to Isis and Horus when they were living in the papyrus swamps, then Thǒth was sent to bring the infant Horus back to life after he had been stung by a scorpion”.[11]  This amulet has been found around the neck of the mummy along with the name-bead. 





The Golden Falcon-head Collar


Falcon Collar

This amulet is a miniature collar with two falcon heads  and appears in the Late Period (664-332 BC, under Saite ruler Psamtek I[13]).   This amulet actually is a descendant of “the large full-sized falcon-collars depicted in the Middle-Kingdom coffin paintings” and the one that was found on the actual mummy of Tutankhamun.   The small amulet was still made of sheet gold in Saite times and inscribed with the Spell 158 from the Book of the Dead.  Then in the Graeco-Roman times, the amulet was later made out of guilded wood or wax.  The text of Spell 158 was translated as the following;

Spell for a collar of gold to be placed on the neck of the deceased.  Recitation by Osiris N. ‘O my father! O my brother! O my mother Isis! Unswathe me! Behold me! I am one of the unswathed ones who see Gēb![11]

The purpose for this amulet was to help free the deceased by Osiris, Isis and Horus from their “mummy-wrappings so that he may live once more.”[11]


The Flying Vulture


Flying Vulture Pectoral

The amulet also did not start to surface until the Saite period and was usually made from gold sheet metal with the spell inscribed below.  This amulet actually is a miniature standing vulture and shares a similar history of the Golden Falcon-headed collar and Horus-collar.  The vulture collar and the miniature standing vulture amulet were a representation of the goddess Nekhebet which also “corresponds to the collar and amulet of the uraeus-goddess, Uto”.[11] The flying vulture amulets were usually inscribed with the text of Spell 157, which refers to the vulture amulet as Isis in vulture form.  The text was translated as the following:

Isis has come, she traversed the city, she has sought out the secret places of Horus when he came forth from his swamps…, he has obtained protection, and there is decreed to him the sovereignty of the names after he has waged a great battle…, he plants the fear of him, he creates the dread of him, his mother, the Great Lady, protects him against those who attack Horus.[11]

The vulture was seen as Isis, who will protect the deceased, as he had protected her son, Horus.  







The Djed Pillar or ‘tet’ amulet –

This amulet was a symbol of stability and protection.[7] Another source deciphered this amulet as a ‘tet’ which resembles a mason’s table and is an emblem that symbolizes Osiris the lord of Tettu, great god of the Underworld.[41] The word ‘tet’ means “firmness, stability, preservation”, this emblem would sometimes be on “plumes, disk and horns, and directly painted on the mummies and tombs”.[41] The amulet could be made of faience, gold, wood, carnelian, or lapis-lazuli.  The spell 155 would be inscribed on the tet, and it stated that the tet was suppose to made of gold:

“Chapter of a tet of gold placed on the neck of the deceased.  Rise up thou, O resting of heart this, shine thou, O resting of heart, place thou thyself upon place thy.  Come I, bring I to thee a tet of gold, rejoice thou in it.”[41]

It was believed if the deceased knew this chapter (spell 155), would be granted through the gates of the underworld and he could “rise up as a perfect soul in the underworld, he would not be repulsed at the gates there, and cakes would be given to him, and joint of meat from the altars of ‘Ra’.[41]







Looped cross or the Buckle-

This amulet was believed to give the breath of life.[7, 16]

Another source called this amulet the ‘buckle’ or the ‘tie’ and it was responsible for protection.[41]  These amulets were usually made of red jasper, carnelian, red porphyry, red glass or faience, sycamore wood, and even solid gold or covered with gold leaf.  The amulet would sometimes be inscribed with the spell 156 if two or more were found together and placed around the mummy’s neck.[41] The text would say:

“Chapter of the buckle of red jasper placed on the neck of the deceased.  The blood of Isis, the incantations of Isis, the power of Isis, a charm for the protection of mighty one this protecting [him from] the doing of what to him is hateful.”[41]










Udjat eye-

This amulet was supposed to have protective powers for it was symbolic of the eye of the god Horus.  Amulets of the Udjat eye were used from the Old Kingdom to the Roman times. “The Udjat eye (the Egyptian word means “sound”, “whole”, “undamaged”) was reputed for its great healing and protective power.” [7, 15]









Two Frogs-

The amulet of two frogs was seen as a symbol of eternal life. 

Frogs were found in the swaps and seen as primordial waters from which all life rose.[7]  A frog amulet is also associated with the goddess of Heqt, which is a form of the goddess Hathor, and she was connected with the idea of resurrection.[41]






Burial Masks

The burial mask was considered a key element in sealing the mummy for the afterlife.  It was considered just as important as the sarcophagus, especially for the royalty.  In the Greco-Roman period, the funeral mask was replaced with a portrait painted on a wooden panel and placed within or top of the linen wrappings. [7,14]


The famous mask of King Tutankhamun, he was the 12th Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt. He ruled from 1334-1323 BC and lived ca. 1341 BC ­ 1323 BC, during the period known as the New Kingdom.[14]










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