Figures of animals used for magical protection are
often termed amulets of assimilation and can be
assigned to what Sir Flinders Petrie the father of
Egyptology designated as the homopoeic category.
The idea of wearing zoomorphic amulets was based upon
the belief that one or more perceived characteristics
of an animal would pass to the human being wearing it.
This varied according to the animal owls are said to
be good luck in some parts of the world even today
and some animal parts were believed to endow the
wearer with good fortune. An enduring modern parallel
for this ancient practice is the rabbits foot.
This apple-green faience amulet depicts a recumbent
maned (i.e. male) lion at rest upon an integral
rectangular base. The head is held majestically erect,
the forelegs extended, the rear legs retracted and the
tail curled around his right haunch. The modelling of
the amulet is highly accomplished, the main body being
smoothly finished, and with details in relief and
highlighted with incisions. The suspension loop
formed from an eminence in the middle of the lions
back is pierced at a right angle to the bodys long
axis. In ancient Egypt, the lion has always been
associated with a series of regal characteristics
power, serenity, stealth and cunning with which
people were eager to be associated. The long
identification of pharaonic leaders with lions is
evidenced by their sculptural hybridisation the
famous sphinx figures.
Our example is representative of a type traditionally
cast in faience, and invariably shown in this pose
with a suspension loop and integral base. Most
examples are believed to date from Dynasty XXVI (654
625 BC), although some may be later. There is evidence
to suggest that they may have played a more active
role than a good luck charm. One magic spell preserved
on a papyrus requires an individual to recite a spell
over a lion of glazed composition threaded to red
linen, so as to protect against snakebite, although
it is possible that snakebite may metaphorically
represent any type of accidental misfortune.