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Work Bead net for a mummy
Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The final Pharaonic dynasties and the Ptolemaic period (circa 1069 - 30 BC)
Bead net for a mummy
© Musée du Louvre/C. Décamps
The final Pharaonic dynasties and the Ptolemaic period (circa 1069 - 30 BC)
The Egyptians of the Dynastic Period had always been fond of jewelry in faience, a quartz-based ceramic with brilliant colors, but it was not until the 1st millennium BC that jewelry was applied over the last shroud, protecting the mummy with symbols of the great gods of the hereafter.
The art of woven beads
The 3,000 years of pharaonic civilization in Egypt saw the production of an incredible number of faience beads. They were used to make colorful jewelry, more economical than its equivalent in gold or semiprecious stone. They are found in broad collars covering the shoulders, in bracelets, and in bead nets worn over a woman’s linen dress (of which the offering-bearer from the tomb of Nakhti in the Louvre is a fine example). Complex weaves of tiny ring beads have been found, used as belts or as cushion covers. From the 21st Dynasty onward, such nets were made to cover the mummy. Here, long beads alternate with ring beads to form a multicolored adornment incorporating images intended to protect the deceased.
One enormous amulet
At the top, two recumbent black dogs on pedestals in the form of tombs represent the god Anubis, patron of the embalmers and guardian of cemeteries; between these are four djed pillars, or pillars of stability, symbols of Osiris, the great god of the dead. In the center is the scarab of the god Khepri, the form of the reborn sun god, for the Egyptians hoped that after death they would participate in the sun’s eternal daily cycle. The remainder of the net consists of decorative motifs in zigzags, diagonals, and alternating bands, in the tradition of earlier women’s jewelry of the same kind. A bead net of this quality functioned as an enormous amulet, as large as the body, creating a marvelous effect.
The excellence of Late Dynastic faience
This bead net was restored, most likely at the Louvre, but all the beads seem to be present and in their original positions. As well as being exceptionally well preserved, it presents a rich and well-controlled palette of colors, alternating turquoise blue, dark blue, sky blue, and golden yellow. The quality of this jewelry and its rich and well-judged range of colors suggest a date toward the end of the Late Dynastic Period, between the first Persian conquest and the 30th Dynasty.
- Gifts of the Nile. Ancient Egyptian Faience, catalogue de l’exposition, Rhode Island, 1998, p. 160, 249, notice n° 163.
Bead net for a mummy
Late Dynastic Period, 27th-30th Dynasty, 525-332 BC
L. 1.05 m; W. 0.29 m
Probably purchased in 1826 with Henry Salt Collection
Materials and techniques
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