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.
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.
Bes was a dwarf Egyptian deity, who acted as protector of the household, particularly of women, children, and childbirth. Dwarfs enjoyed elevated social status in Ancient Egypt, as they were considered to have been celestially blessed. Bes was also associated with sexuality, humour, music, and dancing, and was immensely popular with the people of everyday Egypt. The frequent occurrence of his image throughout the later Dynastic Period is testament to this popularity: during this time, he was seen as the protector of all things good, and as the destroyer of evil. There is evidence of people dressing as Bes in the ancient world, and of girls getting tattoos of the deity on their thighs.
For the Egyptians, gold was the most precious of materials. Its colour signified divinity; it was the metal from which the flesh of the gods was formed; and the Book of the Dead demanded that all amulets be made from it. Egypt is a land rich in gold, and ancient miners used traditional methods to harbour the natural resource. The hieroglyph representing gold was founded in the First Dynasty, but the earliest surviving gold artefacts come from around the 4th Millennium BC.
To find out more about Ancient Egyptian amulets please see our relevant blog post: Egyptian Amulets and their Meanings: Ancient Egyptian Gods.