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Cylindrical Amulet

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

Middle Kingdom Jewelry

Gracious taste, arresting design, and technical mastery of materials characterize Middle Kingdom jewelry.


Jewelers elevated their craft to a level of artistic accomplishment unrivaled in Egyptian history. They refrained from excess, choosing simple, clean forms and understated color patterns. For instance, unlike flamboyant examples from the later New Kingdom, Middle Kingdom necklaces were usually monochromatic and almost never included beads of more than three colors. The most expensive jewelry featured beads made of gold; because it never tarnishes, gold was called the “flesh of the gods” and conveyed immortality.

Jewelers of the Middle Kingdom also relied on certain attractive semiprecious stones that had appeared only sporadically in the Old Kingdom. Red carnelian represented blood’s life-giving properties, and green turquoise symbolized vegetation and fertility and thus resurrection. Purple amethyst and pale blue anhydrite, however, seem to have had no magical powers and were admired solely for their visual appeal.
MEDIUM Gold, amethyst
  • Possible Place Made: Dashur, Egypt
  • DATES ca. 1938-1759 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY XII Dynasty
    PERIOD Middle Kingdom
    DIMENSIONS 2 3/4 x 1/2 x 1/2 in. (7 x 1.3 x 1.3 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 51.226
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Cylindrical Amulet, ca. 1938-1759 B.C.E. Gold, amethyst, 2 3/4 x 1/2 x 1/2 in. (7 x 1.3 x 1.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 51.226. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 51.226_SL3.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 51.226_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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