Shell Inscribed with the Cartouche of Senwosret I

Middle Kingdom

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 109

Polished down to its inner layer of nacre (mother of pearl), this iridescent oyster shell has been pierced with two holes so that it could be strung and hung around the neck. The royal name Senwosret has been incised into the surface. It is one of about fifty such shells known, most inscribed, like this example, with the nomen (birth name) Senwosret, or with the prenomen (throne name) Kheperkare. Since Kheperkare is the throne name of Senwosret I, it is generally assumed that it is this king (rather than another of the monarchs with the same name) who is meant here.

Although few of these shells have archaeological contexts, several of those that do are connected with military personnel, and therefore may have been worn primarily by soldiers. However, there was no clear evidence of a military connection in the burial from which this example comes, and recent scholarship suggests that they may have been buried with women or men in the late Middle Kingdom, and have served an amuletic purpose.

Shell Inscribed with the Cartouche of Senwosret I, Oyster Shell

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