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Additionally, the cultural democratization that was occurring by the Middle Kingdom suggests that these beliefs may have transcended various social strata. However, the scant burial evidence of ankhs makes thorough analysis rather difficult. Moreover, when considered within a burial context, a dualistic contextualization of life that begins at physical birth and continues after the death of the body is evident in Egyptian society. Objects, just as the people who created them, possess a reservoir of social, political, and economic depth to which the human mind cannot at any one time entirely comprehend.
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The impact such academic debate has on the meaning of material culture is difficult to measure, but for archaeologists who study ancient societies, it is even more pertinent to be as objective as possible when reconstructing culture from artifacts. For example, on the one hand, material culture contains a literal or simple meaning that is typified by its function within a society. In this essay, I have endeavoured to highlight these very points by synthesizing a wide battery of theoretical approaches to interpret material objects.
To accomplish this, I have used an interdisciplinary framework focused on ancient Egyptian amulets to emphasize an archaeological approach to the understandings of objects. My goal was to show how no one interpretation is irrefutable, while no single interpretation is necessarily inaccurate. In conclusion, for archaeologists, the meanings of things are essential to our appreciation of past cultures.
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Wherefore, let us be flexible as we engage in the critical analysis of material remains. Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication. We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers. Become a Member. Mola, P. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Mola, Paul J. Last modified May 15, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 15 May This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.
Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. Remove Ads Advertisement. Knapp and W. Ashmore and A. London: Routledge, , Archaeological Theory. Friedman, K. Cialowicz and M. Leuven: Peeters Publishers, , Anthony King. Edited by Austin Harrington. Oxford: Oxford University Press, , Antonino Palumbo and Alan Scott. Carol Andrews. Amulets of Ancient Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press, Daphna BenTor.
Scarabs, Chronology, and Interconnections. Fribourg: Academic Press, David Harvey. The Condition of Postmodernity.
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Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, Dimitri Meeks. Translated by G. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, , Wallis Budge. Amulets and Superstitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, New York: Random House, Ethel Deane. The Collector: Containing Articles and Illustrations. London: Horace Cox, Gae Callender.
Edited by Ian Shaw. Geraldine Pinch. Egyptian Mythology. Ian Shaw. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Jacobus Van Djik. James P.
Amulets of Ancient Egypt
Middle Egyptian. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, John H. Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, Kathryn A. Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. London: Routledge, Magic provided a defence system against these ills for individuals throughout their lives.
Stamping, shouting, and making a loud noise with rattles, drums and tambourines were all thought to drive hostile forces away from vulnerable women, such as those who were pregnant or about to give birth, and from children - also a group at risk, liable to die from childhood diseases. Some of the ivory wands may have been used to draw a protective circle around the area where a woman was to give birth, or to nurse her child.
The wands were engraved with the dangerous beings invoked by the magician to fight on behalf of the mother and child. They are shown stabbing, strangling or biting evil forces, which are represented by snakes and foreigners. Supernatural 'fighters, such as the lion-dwarf Bes and the hippopotamus goddess Taweret, were represented on furniture and household items. Their job was to protect the home, especially at night when the forces of chaos were felt to be at their most powerful.
Bes and Taweret also feature in amuletic jewellery. Egyptians of all classes wore protective amulets, which could take the form of powerful deities or animals, or use royal names and symbols. Other amulets were designed to magically endow the wearer with desirable qualities, such as long life, prosperity and good health.
Magic was not so much an alternative to medical treatment as a complementary therapy. Surviving medical-magical papyri contain spells for the use of doctors, Sekhmet priests and scorpion-charmers. The spells were often targeted at the supernatural beings that were believed to be the ultimate cause of diseases.
Knowing the names of these beings gave the magician power to act against them. Since demons were thought to be attracted by foul things, attempts were sometimes made to lure them out of the patient's body with dung; at other times a sweet substance such as honey was used, to repel them.
Another technique was for the doctor to draw images of deities on the patient's skin. The patient then licked these off, to absorb their healing power. Many spells included speeches, which the doctor or the patient recited in order to identify themselves with characters in Egyptian myth. The doctor may have proclaimed that he was Thoth, the god of magical knowledge who healed the wounded eye of the god Horus. Acting out the myth would ensure that the patient would be cured, like Horus.
Collections of healing and protective spells were sometimes inscribed on statues and stone slabs stelae for public use. Some have inscriptions describing how Horus was poisoned by his enemies, and how Isis, his mother, pleaded for her son's life, until the sun god Ra sent Thoth to cure him. The story ends with the promise that anyone who is suffering will be healed, as Horus was healed. The power in these words and images could be accessed by pouring water over the cippus. The magic water was then drunk by the patient, or used to wash their wound.
Though magic was mainly used to protect or heal, the Egyptian state also practised destructive magic. The names of foreign enemies and Egyptian traitors were inscribed on clay pots, tablets, or figurines of bound prisoners.