Museum piece #20


EA 59500 Obsidian amulet in the shape of two fingers (Source: The British Museum).

Object EA 59500 is an obsidian amulet in the shape of two fingers which dates to the Late Period.

This type of amulet depicts the index and middle fingers and was used in the mummification process; however, there is some debate about its intended role. They were placed with the mummy wrappings close to the incision through which the the organs were removed. One theory is that the fingers represent those of Anubis, the god of embalming, and that their placement by the incision ‘reaffirmed’ the mummification process. Another theory is that they were protect the incision by ‘holding it together’ and keeping malevolent forces at bay.

These amulets were predominantly made of dark, hard stone such as obsidian, basalt, or steatite. This is interesting because statues of Osiris, the god of the Underworld, were often made of black stone. Black stone was symbolic of the afterlife. The hardness of the stone is thought to have represented endurance and would ensure that the protection of the amulet would last forever. The deceased’s body needed to remain intact in order for them to live on in the afterlife for eternity so it was important that the amulet’so powers endured.

The two finger amulet did not start being used until the Late Period, around 600BC.

To read more about Egyptian amulets:

Andrews, Carol. 1994. Amulets of ancient Egypt. University of Texas Press: Texas.


3 comments on “Museum piece #20

  1. Have you read Pezin and Janot’s article in BIFAO 95 (PEZIN M., JANOT Fr., « La “pustule” et les deux doigts », Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale 95, 1995, p. 361-365)? It discusses the sign Aa2, and if I remember well, the authors write about the two fingers amulet (in their interpretation, that seems rather sound, Aa2 depicts a wound opened by two fingers). The article should be freely available online at http://www.ifao.egnet.net/bifao/95 (but the IFAO website seems to be down this morning, I can’t access it :/ !).

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