Egyptian; From Lahun
Gold, carnelian, feldspar, garnet, turquoise
W. of pectoral 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm)
Rogers Fund and Henry Walters Gift, 1916 (16.1.3)
This pectoral is a superb example of the technical skill and artistry of Middle Kingdom jewelers. It was made using the cloisonné technique in which 372 carefully cut pieces of semiprecious stone were set into metal cells. The pectoral's owner was Princess Sit- Hathor- yunet, who seems to have lived from the reign of Senwosret II into that of Amenemhat III of Dynasty 12. Jewelry worn by royal women in this period was not merely an adornment but was also symbolic of the concepts and myths associated with Egyptian kingship. For this reason, it is not the name of the princess that appears on the pectoral, but that of Senwosret II.
The heraldic design is replete with symbolism. The two falcons, representing the sun god Re, clasp a circular hieroglyph meaning "encircled," thus declaring the solar deity's supreme power over the universe. At the top center, the same hieroglyph, elongated to form a cartouche, encircles the throne name of Senwosret II, Khai-kheper-Re. Flanking the king's name are two ankh hieroglyphs (meaning "life") suspended from the cobras, whose tails are wound around the sun disk on the falcons' heads. These snakes represent Nekhbet and Udjo, the goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt who are traditional protectors of the king. Supporting the royal cartouche is the kneeling god Heh clutching two palm ribs symbolizing "millions of years." Thus, as well as protecting the king, the sun god Re is granting him life, a life of millions of years.