Amulet in the form of a head of an elephant

Predynastic, Naqada II

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 101

Few amulets from the Predynastic Period are known. In the past, Egyptologists identified amulets, such as this one, as representing a bull's head, but the round face and eyes, the horns that curve inward to the face, and a snout with a defined ridge make a strong argument for its identification as an elephant. During this period, elephants lived in oasis-like zones in the high desert created by greater rainfall than today. They were probably a rare sight to floodplain dwellers, but their size, tusks, and aggressive displays made them an awe-inspiring creature and an excellent subject for a potent amulet.

Amulet in the form of a head of an elephant, Serpentinite, bone

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