The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, the Lapworth Museum of Geology and the University of Birmingham Collections - Objects
ID number: ECM 115
Institution: Eton College
Named collection: The Eton Myers Collection
Title / Object name / Definition: Bes Amulet
Object type: Amulet
Date made: Third Intermediate Period (c. 1076 - 723 BC)
Collector: Myers, William Joseph
Materials: Faience (blue)
Measurements: 3.10 x 1.82 x 0.94 cm
Description: Flat-backed amulet of a frontally facing Bes head. Details are modelled and picked out in black glaze. A transverse piercing runs through the base of the plumed headdress.
Notes: Amulets depicting the god Bes first appeared during the 18th Dynasty, although the iconography of Bes can be seen in earlier Middle Kingdom ivory knives/wands. Amulets of Bes remained popular into the Roman Period and exhibit a number of variations.
Many Bes amulets represent him frontally, with his hands resting on his hips or bandy legs, which have been shown to hearken back to his leonine origins. However, the anthropomorphism of Bes during the 18th Dynasty also resulted in the introduction of amulets depicting Bes in profile, striding forward playing a musical instrument, usually a tambourine or drum. It is also during this period that Bes develops his iconic dwarf-like character that typifies his iconography for the rest of dynastic history. During the Third Intermediate Period Bes-head amulets became popular, very often depicting the god sticking out his tongue or bearing his teeth. The protective qualities of these amulets are most obviously shown in Greco-Roman examples when the god is shown brandishing military weapons or shields.
It is thought that Bes amulets were probably worn during the lifetime of their owners, particularly by pregnant women and children. In this capacity they served to protect these vulnerable groups through childbirth and infancy.
Andrews, C. 1994. Amulets of Ancient Egypt. London. (p. 39)
Petrie, W. M. F. 1914. Amulets. London. (p. 40-41, pl. XXXIII - XXXIV)
Romano, J. 1980. ‘The Origin of the Bes-Image’, Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar 2, 39-56.
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