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.
The Apis Bull was the most important bull deity in Ancient Egypt: he was one of the first gods of Egypt, and originally associated with fertility. At one point, however, the Apis Bull was considered to be the son of Hathor, and so also shared in her attributes. The Apis Bull featured in many rituals, which sought to maximise the fertilisation of the land. These involved the selection of a living bull bearing a resemblance to the Apis Bull, which was then worshipped for much of its life. It was kept alive for up to 25 years (although it often died naturally before this time) and was then ceremonially killed. Another ‘Apis Bull’ was then selected, and thus the ritual symbolised the cycle of rebirth: death was not considered to be the end of life, but merely a transition to the realm of Osiris.
To find out more about Ancient Egyptian amulets please see our relevant blog post: Egyptian Amulets and their Meanings: Ancient Egyptian Gods.