Small, bellied wedjat eye amulet with little carved decoration. Longitudinal piercing for suspension.
Notes: Wedjat eyes are among the most popular amulets used during the process of mummification in ancient Egypt. They were first introduced during the late Old Kingdom, usually in carnelian or faience but as technology improved, so did the quality of wedjat eye amulets. By the First Intermediate Period intricate open-work designs can be found. The most ornate examples however date to the Third Intermediate Period and feature various symbolic details including the addition of ankh and nefer signs, falcon legs and wings, and uraei. Conversely, it is also in this period that more stylized, simple designs appear – including those of just the eye outline, with significant details picked out in black paint. Wedjat eyes continued in use until the end of dynastic history in Egypt.
The amulets depict an item related to the myth of Horus and Seth. It was said that Horus’ eye was plucked out by his uncle, Seth during their battles but was later restored by the god Thoth. The eye therefore acquired symbolic properties relating to healing and protection, particularly when it was later offered by Horus to his deceased father, Osiris; its magical properties meant that Osiris was brought back to life by the eye. Many of the decorations seen on wedjat eye amulets are therefore similar to markings seen on the lanner falcon, due to these links with the falcon-headed god Horus. The right eye is often seen as representing the sun, while the left, that of the moon. It was the left eye that was damaged by Seth, and the waxing and waning of the moon reflects this damage and subsequent healing. However, both right and left examples of wedjat eye amulets can be seen. Very often, wedjat eyes were also painted on the sides of coffins to allow the deceased the power to see out from their burial.
The strong links between wedjat eyes and Egyptian funerary beliefs can be seen in Chapter 140 of the Book of the Dead. In this spell the practitioner is instructed to read it over ‘a Sound Eye (wedjat eye) of real lapis lazuli or of ḥm3gt-stone set in gold.’ It also follows that the deceased should also be equipped with ‘another Divine Eye (wedjat eye), of red jasper, which a man may place on any limb he prefers’. Many wedjat amulets were found within mummy wrappings, and it can be seen from these findings and Chapter 140 that these amulets could be placed anywhere on the body, although very often they were found on the chests of the deceased. The Eton Myers Collections contains a number of examples of wedjat eye amulets, in both blue and red coloured materials that relate to the instructions given in Chapter 140 of the Book of the Dead.
Allen, T. G. 1974. The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day: Ideas of the Ancient Egyptians Concerning the Hereafter as Expressed in their own Terms. Chicago. (p. 116-117)
Andrews, C. 1994. Amulets of Ancient Egypt. London. (p. 43-44)
Petrie, W. M. F. 1914. Amulets. London. (p. 32-33, pl. XXIV-XXV)