An Egyptian Carnelian Uraeus Amulet, Middle Kingdom, ca. 2040 - 1783 BCE
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The fiery red-orange carnelian amulet of a uraeus, upright with head raised and hood open, its body coiled beneath it, incised on one side and pierced at the top for suspension.
Background: From the earliest dynasties the upreared cobra, the uraeus, was the emblem of royalty, worn on the pharaoh's forehead to signify his kingship and divinity. As a goddess she was the eye of the sun, spitting fire at the king's enemies. The uraeus was among the amulets depicted in both the MacGregor papyrus and the Osiris complex at Dendera. Usually, more than one was placed on the mummy, sometimes at the forehead or even over the feet, but most often on the torso. The uraeus, which as an amulet was intended to provide the non-royal dead with the protection usually reserved for royalty, but which, because of the sloughing of its skin also symbolized resurrection, exists in two basic forms from the twenty-sixth dynasty onwards. In both the fully puffed-up hood is carefully detailed; in the commoner type, a great coil of the body arches up behind to the same height as the head (as is the case on our amulet) and has a suspension loop on top of it. In the other form, only the tip of the tail appears to one side of the base of the hood which lies against a back pillar pierced for suspension.
Dimensions: Height: 1 inch (2.5 cm)
Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall.
Provenance: Private Maryland collection of a diplomat, acquired while serving in Egypt between 1949 and 1956, and then by descent.