Early Dynastic Period, Dynasty 1–2
Findspot: Egypt, Zawyet el-Aryan, Grave Z 116
Length: 63 cm (24 13/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Carnelian, limestone, quartz
Egypt: Pre-Dynastic and Dynastic (Gallery 105A)
This beautifully colored necklace attests to the relatively wide availability of fine raw materials in Early Dynastic Egypt, for it belonged not to a member of the ruling class, but rather to an individual of moderate social standing. It comes from the Early Dynastic cemetery at the site of Zawyet el-Aryan near the capital city of Memphis. The owner of the necklace, a woman who must have died in childbirth and was buried with her newborn baby, was a relatively wealthy individual. In addition to the necklace she was wearing, her grave goods included stone vessels, ceramic jars containing food offerings, a slate cosmetic palette, stone bracelets, and ivory pins.
The woman’s necklace is composed of truncated barrel-shaped beads of carnelian highlighted by stones of other colors. A central pendant takes the form of a bivalve shell, a relatively common form of amulet.
This necklace, worn by a child, is made up primarily of truncated barrel beads of carnelian and cylindrical beads of carnelian and limestone, surrounding a finely carved pendant in the shape of a lioness or panther head. The exact function of such an amulet is uncertain. Perhaps the fierce creature was intended to ward off potential harm. Alternatively, it may have been hoped that the animal’s strength and speed would be transferred to the wearer. Perhaps it appealed to its owner simply for its beauty.
From Zawyet el-Aryan, Grave Z 116. 1910-11: excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of Egypt.
(Accession date: October 19, 1911)
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition