Ring with Sekhmet aegis

An Egyptian ring with an aegis, a small, semi-circular, decorated shield showing the goddess Sekhmet. This represents a symbol of strength and power, as she was the goddess of war and vengeance. It is made from faience, a clay material with a vitreous outer finish, much used in Ancient Egypt, mainly in the making of small statues, amulets, beads, etc. The pieces were usually of a sky-blue, ochre or greenish-blue colour. This was achieved by the application of copper, iron, cobalt and manganese pigments.

Sekhmet, Sejmet or Sachmis, was given titles such as “the (one who is) powerful” and “Mistress of Dread”. She was a symbol of power and force. She was a protector goddess of the pharaohs, and led them in warfare. She was considered a goddess of war and of vengeance, but at the same time goddess of healing. This dual identity is associated with the cat goddess Bastet, and this would be the image of Sekhmet when she was at calm and at rest. Bastet is the gentle goddess, the lady protector against illnesses, patron of the priests, protector of women in labour and of children. Sekhmet is also represented with the solar disk headdress like the goddess Hathor, due to her being recognised as the daughter of the sun god Ra and his sun cult.

Sekhmet was worshipped as the “Lady of Asheru” in the temple of Mut in Karnak. She was also worshipped in Luxor, Memphis, Letopolis and the Delta region. In some temples animals were sacrificed and their blood was offered to keep cholera away. The priests performed a ritual before a different statue of the goddess every day of the year to placate her wrath. This is the reason why so many images of the goddess are still preserved. Most of the statues do not exhibit any expression or dynamism, but rather the typical hieratic attitude of Egyptian art. It is estimated that more than 700 statues of Sekhmet stood in the Temple of Amenhotep III in Luxor and in the Karnak Temple. The majority of the effigies found were sculpted during the reign of this pharaoh. Tame lions were kept in temples dedicated to Sekhmet in Leonopolis.

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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