An Egyptian Amulet of the Goddess Hatmehyt, New Kingdom, ca. 1550 - 1069 BCE


Of pale green glazed steatite amulet of the goddess Hatmehyt. Shown seated on a throne, she wears a long sheath dress, with a visible belly button, and striated wig; the long, decorated lappets ending just above her breasts. The goddess has a uraeus on her forehead and a modius on top of the wig. Her emblem, a fish, is integrated above the modius, its body an extension of the back pillar. The suspension loop, located behind the modius and under the fish, still carries traces of the original stringing rope. The triangular-shaped back pillar is inscribed with a protection formula.

Background:  Sometimes known as “Heti” or “Bastet” (see Herrmann (1994), below), Hatmehyt was a fish-goddess worshipped in the Delta, particularly in Mendes (Per-banebdjedet or place of Banebdjed).   Her name, meaning "Foremost of the fish" or "she who is in front of the fish" suggests she was the most important of the (few) fish cults, or that she was considered to be the oldest fish deity. She was sometimes depicted as a fish (either a dolphin or a lepidotus fish) or a woman with a "fish" emblem on her head. With the rise of the ram god Banebdjedet her cult lost much of its importance, and she came to be considered his consort. In the Late Period Osiris myth she helped look for the dismembered god's body parts and became thus associated with Isis. Through these associations Hatmehyt was a goddess of life and protection.

Reference: For related examples see Andrews (1994), fig. 17c, British museum accession number: EA60908 and the Metropolitan Museum, accession number: 89.2.371

Carol Andrews, Amulets of Ancient Egypt (London, British Museum Press, 1994) p. 21, fig. 17c; Jean-Luc

Chappaz, "Fichier permanent des antiquités égyptiennes (et égyptisantes) des collections privées romandes", Bulletin de la Société d’Égyptologie, Genève 5 (1981), p. 84-85, no. 051 (illustrated on p. 94);

Reginald Engelbach, "Notes on the fish of Mendes", Annales du Service des Antiquités de l'Égypte 24 (1924), p. 161-168;

Christian Herrmann, Ägyptische Amulette aus Palästina/Israel. Mit einem Ausblick auf ihre Rezeption durch das Alte Testament (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis, 138) (Freiburg, Schweiz, Universitätsverlag; Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), p. 226-228;

Christian Herrmann, Die ägyptischen Amulette der Sammlungen BIBEL + ORIENT der Universität Freiburg Schweiz. Anthropomorphe Gestalten und Tiere (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis, Series Archaeologica, 22) (Freiburg, Universitätsverlag; Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003), p. 33;

Christian Herrmann, "Hatmehit", Iconography of Deities and Demons: Electronic Pre-Publication (version 31 January 2007);

Walter Llewellyn Nash, "Ha-mhyt: goddess of the Mendesian nome", Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 25 (1903), p. 112;

W.M. Flinders Petrie, Amulets, Illustrated by the Egyptian Collection in University College, London (London, 1914, reprinted 1972), p. 38 and pl. XXX, no. 173;

Dimensions: Height:  2 3/8 inches  (6.05 cm)

Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall

Provenance: Private collection of George Ollinger, Maryland USA, acquired in the late 1950's - 1960s, thereafter in a private Maryland collection, acquired from the Ollinger estate in the late 1990's.

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