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An Egyptian Faience Amulet of Hatmehyt, 21st Dynasty, ca. 1969-945 BC

A superb and rare apple-green glazed composition amulet of the goddess Hatmehyt. Shown seated on a throne, she wears a long sheath dress, with 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; Words spoken by Bastet: I protect the venerated one before (Osiris) !” 

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;
Condition:   Exceptional example with very fine green glaze, scattered surface deposits, the amulet is intact with no repair or restorations. The A highly desirable and very rare amulet.

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

Provenance:   Collection of Colonel Robert de Rustafjaell F.R.G.S., acquired prior to 1909, and p urchased at one of the Rustafjaell sales held in 1906, 1913 and 1915 by Gustave Maurice Heckscher and donated to the  Heckscher Museum of Art, Long Island, New York, founded by his father; de-accessioned by the museum in 2014.  Robert de Rustafjaell (1876-1943), Robert Fawcus-Smith, was a British collector and author who worked in Egypt as a geologist and mining engineer. After World War I, de Rustafjaell moved to the United States, where he lived under the name Col. Prince Roman Orbeliani. 

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