Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
Ba is the Egyptian concept closest to what is meant by the English word "soul." Its composite human-and-bird form symbolizes its ability to travel to different realms. This extremely fine amulet may date to the Ptolemaic Period, but various types of gold amulets inlaid with colored stones are known from burials of Dynasties XXVI through XXX (orca 664–342 B.C.)
Gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise, steatite
1 1/4 x 2 11/16 x 3/8 in. (3.1 x 6.8 x 0.9 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Gold amulet with a cloissone inlay of lapis lazuli, turquoise, and steatite representing a soul in the form of a human-headed bird. Viewed from below the piece displays a human head and bird’s body modelled in the round in gold. This body is attached to outstretched wings made of a sheet of gold. Attached to each wing is an eyelet made of a strip of gold. The lower part of the underside of the tail has an inlay pattern representing five feathers (lapis-turquoise-steatite-turquoise-lapis). Seen from above the sheet of gold is inlayed to represent a feather pattern which is broken up into areas of dark and light blue (lapis and turquoise) with a brown curving strip across the shoulder.
Condition: One end of one of the eyelets loose; one steatite inlay missing.
This item is not on view
Ba Amulet, 305-30 B.C.E. Gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise, steatite, 1 1/4 x 2 11/16 x 3/8 in. (3.1 x 6.8 x 0.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.804E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 37.804E.jpg)
overall, 37.804E.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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What kind of wings are these and what do they symbolize?
These wings are based on that of a larger predatory bird, likely a vulture or a falcon. This particular object represents a person's ba, part of their soul. The small gold head is meant the be that of the person.
The vulture, in ancient Egypt was associated with protection, especially maternal protection and several goddesses. The falcon was associated with several prominent gods, like Horus and Re.