An Egyptian Carnelian Snake Amulet, Middle Kingdom, ca. 2040 - 1783 BCE
Amulets representing the head and forepart of a snake were worn to ward off snakebite, a common occurrence in ancient Egypt, and as greatly feared by the dead as by the living. Although not clear why, it was apparently important for the serpent's head to be red as most examples are of carnelian, such as this one, or of some other red material such as jasper.
The head and much of the deflated hood are represented with clearly marked eyes and incised mouth that adds to the lifelike representation. Horizontal ribbing is incised down the length of the body.
Such amulets were usually placed at the throat, which was regarded as a particularly vulnerable part of the body.
Dimensions: Length: 1 1/4 inches (3 cm)
Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall. A rare and fine example.
Provenance: Private Maryland collection of a diplomat, acquired while serving in Egypt between 1949 and 1956, and then by descent.
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