The Opening of the Mouth ceremony carried out on the mummy on the day of burial to restore to the deceased all his earthly faculties and reincorporate the spirit within the body entailed the use of various prescribed ritual implements, among them the distinctly shaped pesesh-kef. The earliest, most elaborate pesesh-kef amulets, such as this obsidian example, are unique to burials of the First Intermediate Period and early Middle Kingdom. Characterized by a human head with long wig at one end of a flat bifurcated shaft, it terminates with the two ends upwardly-curving into points.
The exact purpose of the pesesh-kef is unknown and the subject of considerable speculation so it is difficult to determine the significance of the amulet. Where details of provenance are known, they seem to have come from burials of women, one a princess of Dynasty 11 and often made of valuable material. The amulets were originally worn on the mummy; one example was found on a cord around a women's neck. This amulet retains traces of a thickish cord in the suspension loop so it can be speculated it too originally formed part of a choker.
Andrews, Carol. Amulets of Ancient Egypt Austin: University of Texas Press, (1994) pp. 83-84.
Roth, Ann Macy. "The PsS-kf and the 'Opening of the Mouth' Ceremony: A Ritual of Birth and Rebirth." Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 78 (1992), pp. 113-147.
Roth, Ann Macy. "Fingers, Stars, and the 'Opening of the Mouth': the Nature and Function of the nTrwj-blades." Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 79 (1993), pp. 57-79.
Markowitz, Yvonne J., Joyce L. Haynes, and Rita E. Freed. Egypt in the Age of the Pyramids: Highlights from the Harvard University–Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Expedition. Boston: MFA Publications, 2002, p. 69, cat. 17a.
Thomas, Nancy, ed. The American Discovery of Ancient Egypt. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1995, p. 122, cat. 36.
S. D'Auria et al, Mummies and Magic: The Funerary Arts of Ancient Egypt Boston, 1988, pp. 81, 224-5.
Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall, with traces of original stringing within the suspension loop, a very rare and fine example.
Dimensions: Height: 1.57 inches (4 cm)
Provenance: Alex Malloy collection, acquired in the 1980s.