Homepage Timeline Maps A-Z index Learning


Future research from the Petrie typology of amulets

The five amulets below illustrate the five classes proposed by Petrie, and the chronological scope of material, in Petrie 1914

UC 20504, amulett found at Qau UC 20504, amulett found at Qau UC 20504, amulett found at Qau UC 20504, amulett found at Qau UC 20504, amulett found at Qau

Amulets of similars

Carnelian leg amulet

First Intermediate Period

Amulets of powers

Faience counterpoise

Late Period

Amulets of property

Glass model vessel

Roman Period

Amulets of protection

conus shell

Third Intermediate Period

Amulets evoking gods

faience falcon head

Roman Period


Two of the more serious methodological objections to the classification system are (1) changes over time and (2) the meaning of items within sets.

1. change over time

Petrie gathered together material from several thousand years of Egyptian history, from prehistory to the medieval period. The better documented historical periods towards the end of this time-range include radical transformations in the patterns and expressions of religious belief in Egypt: the Hellenisation of Egypt during the Roman Period, followed by general conversion to Christianity by the fourth century, and then to Islam after the Arab Conquest of AD 639-642. It might be expected that social and individual attitudes to objects differed considerably between periods with different religious beliefs.

For future research - the beliefs of each period should be explored first from the material contemporary with that period (rule of relative synchrony)

2. items in sets

In accordance with the general history of collections, Petrie considered amulets item by item. However at the same time he recorded the groups of amulets found on Late Period burials. Such study of groups may prove more productive than study of single object categories, or at least should not be excluded, because an item may derive meaning not only from its form (content), but equally or more from its place among others (context) and its difference or similarity to others in its time and place. Entirely different ranges of amulets are found in each of the main periods of ancient Egyptian history.

For future research - the groups of amulets in each period should be explored alongside the individual items. The periods at which amulets are grouped together at burial with especial regularity are the First Intermediate Period (exemplified by burials at Qau), the Late Period to early Ptolemaic Period (exemplified by burials at Hawara, Abydos and Nebesheh), and the early Roman Period (exemplified by burials at Denderah).


Copyright 2002 University College London. All rights reserved.