Magic wand

Period: Middle Kingdom

Dynasty: Dynasty 12

Date: ca. 1981–1802 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt, Memphite Region, Lisht South, Pyramid Temple of Senwosret I, Outer Court, Pit 504, MMA excavations, 1908

Medium: Hippopotamus ivory

Dimensions: L. 33.8 × W. 3.8 × H. 15.8 × Th. 0.6 cm (13 5/16 × 1 1/2 × 6 1/4 × 1/4 in.)

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1908

Accession Number: 08.200.19

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 109
Wands such as this were a common feature in burials of the late Middle Kingdom. This one shows signs of wear on one tip, suggesting that it was used over a period of time before being placed in the tomb. The wand is decorated on one side with the figures of protective deities most of whom carry knives to ward off evil spirits.

The purpose of the wands is revealed by an inscription carved on the back of this
one:

"Recitation by the many protectors: We have come that we may extend our protection around the healthy child Minhotep, alive, sound, and healthy, born of the noblewoman Sitsobek, alive, sound, and healthy. "

Other wands (15.3.197; 30.8.218) are inscribed on the front with the words "protection by day" and "protection by night." The texts indicate that the wands were used to defend infants against malign forces, perhaps by scratching a circle in the earth around the area where they slept. Having provided defense against illness during life, after death the wands were placed in the tomb to ensure the continued protection of the deceased's spirit in its eternal afterlife.
Museum excavations, 1908. Acquired in the division of finds.

Excavated by the Egyptian Expedition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds.

Hayes, William C. 1953. Scepter of Egypt I: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge, Mass.: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 248.

Arnold, Dieter 1992. The Pyramid Complex of Senwosret I: South Cemeteries of Lisht, Volume 3. Publications of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, 25. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 47, 69-70, pl. 82-84a.

Allen, James P. 2005. "Magic Wands." In The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt, edited by James P. Allen and David T. Mininberg. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 28–30, no. 20.