An Rare Egyptian Carnelian Fish Amulet, Middle Kingdom, ca. 2040 - 1783 BCE
Object No: EA1904
The nb3w, (nekhau) pendant takes the form of a fish, that was attached to the plait of a young girl as a charm to prevent drowning. Modeled from firey carnelian, it represents the batensoda fish (Synodontus batensoda)- a type of catfish that swims upside down and catches bugs that fall on the surface of the water.
Its first known mention is in the Westcar Papyrus, a literary text dating to the Middle Kingdom whereby King Sneferu is feeling bored and depressed and his chief priest suggests he take a boat ride with the most beautiful women in his harem. They all go out on the lake and Sneferu is enjoying himself when one of the women loses a green fish-shaped jewel from her hair and stops rowing. She refuses Sneferu's offer to replace it and so he calls to the chief priest, who is also on the boat, to do something. The priest parts the waters of the lake, retrieves the jewel, and then closes the waters again. Sneferu is pleased, the women row on, and the priest is rewarded.
Dimensions: Length: 1 inch (2.5 cm)
Condition: Rejoined but complete in very good condition overall.
Provenance: John N. Winnie, Jr. private collection, Georgia, 1980s-90s, private Connecticut collection, thereafter private NY collection.
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