Two “Sons of Horus” amulets

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Two amulets belonging to a set of the Four Sons of Horus. They represent, namely, Imsety with a human head, and Qebehsenuef, with the head of a falcon. All four have bodies in human form, and underlying their funerary character, they are wrapped in shrouds. The other two Sons of Horus also have animal-form heads. The holes in the faience in the shrouds of the mummyform figures have been made so that the amulets can be suspended by a thread.

The system of conservation of bodies through mummification, an essential rite in Egyptian funerary practices, called for the extraction of the human organs that, once dehydrated with natron, were placed in recipients in the form of jars, called canopic jars.

From the time of the Old Kingdom, these jars were used in burials. They were closed with stoppers which in the beginning were plain ones, but in the Middle Kingdom acquired the form of human heads. From the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty the lids took on the form of the Four Sons of Horus, funerary gods responsible for the protection of the human organs. These four were the human-headed Imsety, protecting the liver; the baboon-headed Hapi, protecting the lungs; the jackal-headed god, Duamutef, protecting the stomach, and Qebehsenuef, the falcon-headed god protecting the intestines.

The material used for the creation of this amulet is faience, composed of fine sand cemented with sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate extracted from natron. Fired at 950 degrees C, the mixture gives an enamel-like finish with the carbonates forming a vitreous surface. It was a simple procedure and therefore not costly. The green and blue tones were achieved by the addition of a few grams of copper oxide extracted from malachite or azurite. The red tones were achieved with iron oxide, the intense blues with cobalt, the black by mixing iron oxide and magnesium oxide with water. All that was needed was to paint the chosen details in the selected colour with a brush before the firing.

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