Object: Amulet

Date unknown
Materials: faience

The museum’s catalog identifies this amulet as depicting the Egyptian god Anubis. In Egyptian mythology Anubis plays a crucial role as guide and protector of the deceased.

However, after examining the piece I feel that this amulet does not depict Anubis. Anubis, when shown in his half human form, has the head of a jackal while this amulet shows the head of a lion. Additionally, this figure is shown wearing a special type of crown called the atef crown. This type of crown is typically associated with the god Osiris and symbolized the priesthood and divine power. The atef crown resembles the white crown of Upper Egypt which has been decorated with two vertical rows of ostrich feathers. It seems more likely that this amulet depicts the god Maahes, rather than Anubis.

Maahes (also known as Mahes, Mihos, Miysis, or Mysis) was a male deity most commonly associated with fighting, war, and violence. Some myths describe him as a protector or guardian of Ra, the god of the sun disk. In this role he would protect Ra from Apep, the god of darkness while he traveled through the underworld during the night. In times of war, Maahes was also thought to be the protector of the pharaoh. Other myths describe him as an executioner, a protector of the innocent, a guardian of sacred places, or as one who could find “truth.” He also shared many characteristics with other lion headed deities such as Nefertem and Shesmu. It is likely that an amulet of Maahes was thought to protect the wearer from evil and ensure their safe passage in the underworld.

An example of a faience amulet depicting the god Anubis can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

maahes amulet

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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