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Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs

Sennefer's necklace

© Musée du Louvre / G. Poncet

Egyptian Antiquities
Religious and funerary beliefs

Author(s):
Rigault Patricia

This funerary necklace is composed of three rows of beads made of glass and gilded wood, and a serpentine scarab. It was found on the mummy of Sennefer, in the cemetery of Deir el-Medina. There are long spindle-shaped beads, smaller elongated ones, and many small round ones. The scarab still bears significant traces of gilding, and a text exhorting the heart of the deceased not to bear witness against him in the Court of the dead.

Sennefer's tomb at Deir el-Medina

The tomb of the craftsman Sennefer was discovered in February 1928 in the workers' cemetery at Deir el-Medina, during excavations conducted by Bernard Bruyère. This modest-sized tomb contained the coffins of Sennefer and of his wife Nefertiti, placed side by side. At their head was a small coffin in which a child had been buried. The floor was strewn with bouquets which had been placed there during the funeral, and round about were a number of canes, a chest, a chair, an amphora, and some crockery containing provisions.
The tomb was only partly pillaged during Antiquity, and the mummies of Sennefer and his wife were found intact. Sennefer's coffin contained a wooden headrest, an ebony cubit rod, and a few copper items. His mummy wore a gilded cartonnage mask, and wreaths of vine and lotus leaves. The scarab was placed over the heart, held in place by the necklace.

On the proper use of heart scarabs

The raison d'être of the heart scarab can be found in Chapter 30 B of the Book of the Dead (the great funerary work in use during the New Kingdom). Various versions of this, the "Formula for preventing the heart of a man from opposing him in the underworld", are inscribed on heart scarabs. The chapter is as follows: "Oh my heart of my mother, oh my heart of my mother, oh my heart of my existence, do not stand against me when testifying, do not oppose me in the Council, do not show hostility toward me before the Keeper of the Balance. You are my heart, that is in my body, the god Khnum who makes my limbs sound. When you go to the fine place made ready for us in the Afterlife, do not cause my name to stink before the members of the court who judge men, make it good for us and pleasant for the judge. Utter no lies against me.." The heart scarab was thus intended to ensure that the heart (the seat of consciousness) kept quiet during the perilous "Weighing of the Heart", a ceremony which had to be undergone before the deceased was granted access to the Afterlife. The reciting of this formula on the scarab was thus a supplementary precaution to ensure a peaceful second life.

Glass - a precious material

Sennefer's grave goods suggest that, although he may not have been truly wealthy, he could at least afford the kind of quality materials that were not necessarily found in every tomb. The gilded wooden beads in this necklace, for example, were less costly than gold ones. However, the large drop-shaped glass beads prove that Sennefer had access to this luxury material, which was characteristic of the late 18th Dynasty.

Bibliography

- Les Artistes de Pharaon, Deir el-Médineh et la Vallée des Rois, catalogue d'exposition, Louvre/Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 2002, p. 161, n 108.

- FORGEAU, L'Art de l'Antiquité, L'Egypte, 1997, p. 105, fig. 99.

- BRIDONNEAU C., Le Monde de la Bible, 1992, n 78, p. 28, 29, fig. 32

Technical description

  • Sennefer's necklace

    New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, c. 1330 BC

  • Necklace: serpentine, gilded wood, glassScarab: stucco, gilding

    Necklace: W. 81.5 cmScarab: W. 7 cm; L. 4.6 cm; Th. 3.02 cm

  • Division of excavation finds, 1930

    E 14005, E 14006

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    The Book of the Dead
    Room 17

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