The Egyptians wore amulets alongside other pieces of jewellery. They were decorative, but also served a practical purpose, being considered to bestow power and protection upon the wearer. Many of the amulets have been found inside the wrappings of mummies, as they were used to prepare the deceased for the afterlife.
Thoth was an important Egyptian deity, who was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or baboon, as these were his sacred animals. When represented as a baboon (the less usual of the two forms, adding to the rarity of this amulet), he was A’an – the god of equilibrium. His role as A’an was important in the afterlife and during the liminal phase beforehand. At the ceremony in which the deceased heart was weighed against the feather of Maat, it was the responsibility of A’an to ensure that the two were level, thereby allowing the deceased to proceed into the underworld.
Amulets held different meanings, depending on their type or form. Small amulets depicting gods and goddesses seem to have induced the protective powers of the deity. On the other hand, small representations of anatomical features or creatures suggest that the wearer required protection over a specific body part, or that he/she desired the skills of a particular animal. Amulets depicting animals were very common in the Old Kingdom Period, whilst representations of deities gained popularity in the Middle Kingdom. Perhaps this amulet aided the wearer in the afterlife, or endowed him/her with other attributes of Thoth, such as language and accuracy.
To find out more about Ancient Egyptian amulets please see our relevant blog post: Egyptian Amulets and their Meanings: Ancient Egyptian Gods.