An Egyptian Bronze Amulet of a Horus Falcon, Late Period, ca 664 - 332 BCE


Depicting the god Horus as a falcon, this well cast, and richly detailed falcon wears the Double Crown that combines the White Hedjet Crown of Upper Egypt and the Red Deshret Crown of Lower Egypt.  The head has lidded oval eyes and a hooked beak.  Thick, heavy ridges of the legs and rough skin of the talons contrast with the delicacy of the engraved feathering on the closed wings, uniting the power and majesty of the falcon. Cast on a flat, integrated platform, with double uraeus at the front. 

Background:  The soaring flight and predatory character of the falcon linked this mighty raptor to the god of the living king, Horus, early in pharaonic tradition. The living king of Egypt was identified as an earthly Horus, and from the late Predynastic Period (c. 3100 BCE), the king bore a special royal “Horus name.” The falcon, as the sacred animal of Horus, came to symbolize divine kingship, as the king was the earthly representation of Horus. The characteristic appearance of the Double Crown and uraeus on bronze figurines of falcons reinforces this royal connection. The falcon was also associated with the sky, with eyes representing the sun and the moon, and its large wings outspread to protect the earth below. Later, the falcon became associated with the sun god Re, bearing a sun disc on its head (known as Re-Harakhty). Other gods also had falcons as their sacred animals, such as Montu, the god of war, which is distinguished by a double-plume headdress.

As with so many animals associated with the divine realm, during the later periods, the falcon became the focus of mummification, burial, and votive offerings. The numerous bronze falcon statuettes are characterized by their upright, yet resting, stance with wings folded at the side. They range in size from small ornaments to large, freestanding figures with many of the larger examples hollow-cast with an inner compartment in which an actual bird could be deposited. Buried in extensive catacombs at sacred sites throughout Egypt were hundreds of thousands of mummified falcons. The Greco-Roman period temples at Plilae and Edfu represent the final flourishing of the cult.

Bibliography:  Hanfmann, G and Rowland, B. Jr., "Ancient Art at the Fogg Museum," Archaeology, Vol. 7, No. 3, 130-37.

Hart, George A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. (1986) Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, United Kingdom, p. 94.

Redford, Donald B.  The Ancient Gods Speak.  (2002) Oxford University Press, New York, NY. p.166.

Parallels: D. Pacha, Collection d'Antiquités Égyptiennes de Tigrane Pacha d'Abro, Paris, 1911, no. 28, pl. XVII.
Museum of Archaeology at Staten Island, Divine Images and Other Fabulous Creatures, Staten Island, 1978, no. 10.
R. Merhav, et al., A Glimpse Into the Past: The Joseph Ternbach Collection, Jerusalem, 1981, no. 121.

Published: J. Eisenberg, Art of the Ancient World, 2013, no. 201.

Condition:   With a patina of rich dark brown, the falcon is intact and in very good condition overall. It is custom mounted on a black wood base.

Dimensions: Height: 2 1/8 in. (5.5 cm.)

Provenance:  Ex-French collection

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