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Work Pendant, Falcon with Ram's Head

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Amulette : faucon à tête de bélier

© Musée du Louvre/C. Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Author(s):
Élizabeth David

This pendant comes from the tomb of an Apis bull buried in the Serapeum of Saqqara, a site excavated by Auguste Mariette from 1851 to 1853. Made from gold of great purity, it takes the form of a falcon with a ram's head, with outstretched wings and legs and wearing a broad necklace. Engraved on the reverse of the gold leaf, the image appears on the front in relief and in colored cloisonné. This is a composite figure of a deity, almost certainly a form of the sun god.

A jewel of exceptional quality

The gold used for this pendant is 99.5 percent pure, which is extremely rare in Egyptian jewelry. The upper, cloisonné side, is of a rare degree of technical perfection, with a design comprising some three hundred cloisons. All the inlays are of semi-precious stones: turquoise, lapis-lazuli, and carnelian. The quality of the materials is as exceptional as the intricacy and skill of the craftsmanship. The design of the cloisons is harmonious, fluid and varied, while the engraving on the gold leaf is delicate and detailed.

A strange deity

The falcon is depicted with its wings outstretched and legs spread in a position ill-suited to flight, holding shen signs in its claws. The head, raised at right angles above the body, is that of a ram with twisted horizontal horns. This composite figure appears in two dimensions in the final scene of the Book of Caverns on some royal tombs of the Ramesside Period.

A promise of rebirth

The Book of Caverns is a royal funerary text that appeared during the Ramesside Period. It describes the nocturnal transformations of the sun god in the underworld, as he progresses from "cavern" to "cavern" until morning. Then, regenerated and rejuvenated, the sun rises to start a new day. In the tomb of Twosre (late Nineteenth Dynasty, 1188-1186 BCE), the sun, at the end of its transformation, takes precisely the shape of a ram-headed falcon, with wings and legs outstretched. A jewel depicting this image and placed in a tomb would signify a guarantee of rebirth for the deceased. The fact that this was a dead bull, and not a dead person, was immaterial.

Bibliography

Ch. Ziegler, "l'Egypte pharaonique : l'exemple des bijoux du Sérapeum", proceedings of the conference Cornaline et pierres précieuses. La Méditerranée, de l'Antiquité à l'Islam, Paris, 1999, pp. 15-41
Egyptomania, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1993, pp. 352-3
H.W. Müller et E. Thiem, L'Or de l'Egypte ancienne, Paris, 2000, p. 196, fig. 413
Connaissance des Arts Hors série, 1995, n 68, pp. 22-3, pl. 19-20, commentaires des analyses du centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France.
C. Andrew, Ancient Egyptian Jewellery, London, 1990, p. 14.
Les Dossiers de l'Archéologie, 1980, t. 40, pp. 10-12

Technical description

  • Amulette : faucon à tête de bélier

    1254 avant J.-C. (an 26 de Ramsès II)

    trouvée dans la tombe d'un taureau Apis

  • or, lapis-lazuli, turquoise, cornaline

    H. : 7,10 cm. ; L. : 13,70 cm.

  • E 80

  • Egyptian Antiquities

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