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664-332 B.C.E.

Late Period

Faience (glazed composition)
H: 16.7 W: 7.1 D: 1.2 cm

Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1907.28a-b

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This keyhole-shaped object served as a counterpoise on a menat necklace consisting of several strands of tiny beads. At the straight end are two perforations for the attachment of bead strands. Centered near this end is the incised image of a vulture who wears a headdress and holds a flail. At the rounded end is the incised image of the kheker. This symbol is most likely a bundle of reeds bound together, forming a rosette-like design. The menat was a symbol of the goddess Hathor. The vulture incised on this example is also symbolic of the goddess Hathor, as well as of the goddess Mut.

Menat necklaces are sometimes depicted around the neck with the counterpoise hanging down between the shoulder blades; with the counterpoise extended, it could be held in the hand. As a ritual object, the necklace may have been shaken to allow the beads to connect with the counterpoise and fend off evil spirits by the noises this action created. During the festival of Hathor, the priestesses of the goddess would go from door to door shaking menats and sistra (rattle-like musical instruments) to endow the occupants of each house with the favors of life, health, and rebirth. The menat is also found in graves, where it was worn as an amulet to protect the deceased in their transition and rebirth in the afterlife.

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