These objects are a small sample from the
Egyptian collection of Perth Museum. They reflect
the collecting of all things Egyptian, known as
'Egyptomania', that was hugely popular in the
19th and early 20th centuries.
The bulk of the Perth collection was acquired in
this way, by antiquarian and amateur collectors
who sent or brought back items from Egypt. Some
appear to have been acquired first hand from
excavations in the Valley of the Kings, Thebes, for
example, whilst others were acquired secondhand via dealers in Cairo.
Once robbed from a tomb some mummies were cut up
and the pieces sold or otherwise traded into the
antiquities market. This example comes from a tomb in
Saqqara and has a protective amulet exposed within the
layers of bandage. The hand has been separated at the
metacarpal/wrist joint. Radiography confirmed
preservation of soft tissues, ligaments and muscles
overlying the bone.
Mummified Birds and Animals
Ancient Egyptians believed animals and birds could also go into the afterlife. This
had two aspects. One was the desire to play with pets in the afterlife, which meant
cats and dogs were mummified alongside their owners. The other was the practice
of animal cults in which the spirit of a particular deity was believed to reside in an
animal. When the animal died it was mummified and a new live animal selected.
Huge numbers of animal mummies have been found, including millions of ibises at
Saqqara alone, so many that it is possible that the Egyptians bred them specifically
as offerings and that they were kept in sacred colonies.
This example is presented as an ibis. Birds were sometimes kept as pets but the
ibis was believed to represent the god Thoth. Radiography of this bundle revealed
no material in good enough condition to confirm the ibis identification proclaimed
on the wrapping. There are lots of small bones and feather elements combined
with mud suggesting that this was a using up of left over bits from other
mummifications. It was clearly re-packaged in the mid-nineteenth century to
appeal to collectors and tourists. It may have been found at Saqqara. It was
donated by Dr Henderson.
Usually made of limestone, alabaster or ceramic, canopic jars were used
to keep and preserve for the afterlife the internal organs of the
deceased, removed as part of the mummification process. They went
out of use around the middle of the first century BC, from when the
organs were simply wrapped and place with the mummy.
The jars came in sets of four, one each for the stomach, the
intestines, the lungs and the liver. As the seat of the soul the heart was
left inside the mummified body. At various times the lids were either
plain or shaped like the face of the deceased, the head of Anubis or the
four sons of Horus.
The lid on the jar at the back for example is the human-headed
Imseti, guardian of the liver and himself protected by Isis. The jar and lid
are genuine but the inscription on the body of the jar is a fake. It was
probably added in the 19th century to associate the jar with Hrihor, High
Priest of Karnak, who died in 1065 BC.
The painted pottery lid depicts Horus's jackal-headed son
Duamutef, protector of the stomach and protected by the goddess
Small funerary figures that could be made of wood, stone, ceramic or faience. They were
produced in huge numbers and along with scarabs are the most numerous of surviving ancient
Egyptian antiquities. Their purpose was to be a substitute for the deceased in the event of the
deceased being required to do manual labour in the afterlife. Often they carry an agricultural
hoe and a basket. They were generally placed in the tomb amongst the grave goods - sometimes
covering the floor around a sarcophagus - but were sometimes wrapped in the bandages of a
Wall fragment with inscription
The more elaborate tombs in which the
mummies and their grave good were placed
were often richly decorated. This fragment of
decorated walling comes from a tomb in Thebes
.The hieroglyphic inscription is so partial that it
cannot be meaningfully translated. The white
background was common for tomb decoration
around 1500-1000 BC.
Amulets were worn by the living and the dead
in ancient Egypt. Some protected the wearer
from danger and others gave the wearer special
attributes such as strength. They were generally
made in the shape of animals, plants, sacred
objects or hieroglyphic symbols. Different
combinations of shape, material and colour
determined the effectiveness of a particular
Scarab beetle amulets
The scarab beetle was an important amulet type from around
2,600BC onwards. The real beetle lays its eggs in dung and then
pushes the ball of dung before it wherever it goes. When the
young beetles hatch they appear to do so miraculously from the
dung. Thus to the ancient Egyptians the scarab beetle was a
symbol of rebirth and represents the god Khepri, who was
thought to push the sun disc through the morning sky, as a
scarab beetle pushes its ball of dung.
Initially scarab amulets were used as protective seals in life and
later their use was extended to funerary rites. The heart scarab
was placed over the heart of the mummy to prevent the heart
from speaking out against the deceased.
The ancient Egyptians associated the hare with
alertness and watchfulness and so with the
protective goddess Wienut. Hare amulets were
made of made of many materials including gold
and ivory. This example is made of porcelain.
Hare amulets were worn to give their wearers
swiftness and alertness so as to escape all
dangers. They also worked as fertility charms
All-seeing eye amulet
One of the most widely worn protective amulets
was the wedjat eye: the restored eye of Horus.
It was worn by the living, and often appeared on
rings and as an element of necklaces. It was also
placed on the body of the deceased during the
mummification process to protect the incision
through which the internal organs were
removed. This example dates to around 700 BC
and is made of faience, a special type of bluegreen ceramic.