Wedjat eye amulets were among the most popular amulets of ancient Egypt. This gold Wedjat eye was likely placed among the wrappings of the deceased's mummy to provide magical protection and aid in their rebirth in the afterlife.
As valuable as this amulet was however, for tomb robbers it may not have been as sought after as the deceased's wooden coffin.
According to legend, Horus' eye was torn out during his struggle with his evil uncle Seth, fighting to avenge the death of Horus' father, Osiris, and fighting for his rightful place on Egypt's throne. After the battle, Horus' eye was healed through the powerful magic of his mother, Isis.
In this way, the wedjat eye represents the healed eye of the victorious Horus and carries Isis' strong powers of healing, as well as protection and regeneration in general. However, a new exhibition suggests that while gold was good, wood was sometimes better.
This golden amulet is part of the exhibition, "Death on the Nile: Uncovering the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt", now on at the Fitzwilliam Museum, part of the University of Cambridge. This exhibition is the first where the focus has been put on the ancient Egyptian artisans.
One fascinating feature highlighted by the exhibition is the extent to which the ancient Egyptians put paid to their ancestors' hopes for a peaceful afterlife. Many tombs, it seems, were broken into with the intent to steal not only precious amulets, like the one above, but also the wooden coffins the deceased was buried in.
Many coffins in the exhibition—a large number from the Fitzwilliam's own collection, show evidence of reuse. For tomb robbers, good quality wood such as expensive, imported Lebanese cedar, was a highly sought-after prize.
"Death On The Nile" is on at the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge until the 22nd of May. Admission is free.
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