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Amulet in the Form of a Ba as Human-Headed Bird

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, 19th Dynasty to Roman Period, Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Gallery, 3rd Floor

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.)

MEDIUM Gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise and steatite
  • Reportedly From: Saqqara, Egypt
  • DATES 664 B.C.E. or later
    DYNASTY XXVI Dynasty or later
    PERIOD Late Period or Ptolemaic Period
    DIMENSIONS 1 1/4 x 2 11/16 x 3/8in. (3.1 x 6.8 x 0.9cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Amulet in the Form of a Ba as Human-Headed Bird, 664 B.C.E. or later. Gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise and steatite, 1 1/4 x 2 11/16 x 3/8in. (3.1 x 6.8 x 0.9cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.804E. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, 37.804E_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION 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.
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