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Monday, 22 July 2013

Amarna daemons- Beset?

In the last post I introduced our beaded collars and asked fake or not fake? Well, the individual beads on them are certainly genuine.

But what about this one? We are looking at close up of one of the collars. The black circles are pins holding the beads in place for display in the museum. Have a look at the centre amulet here which is made of blue faience. It shows a figure turned to the right, holding the root of its tail in one hand and with its other hand to its breast. The figure has loose disevelled hair and a human face. It's genuine, but what is it? My predeccessor Kate Bosse-Griffiths believed it to be a New Kingdom, female Bes- A Beset.

But, do such things exist? To be honest I'm still looking and thinking. So this is just what I think so far. For a bit more on Egypt Centre Bes things
click here.

The term 'Bes', of course covers a whole load of different daemons to whom the ancient Egyptians gave lots of names. One of the best known is 'Aha' the fighter. Female Bes's (Besets) seem to have been around in the Middle Kingdom, at least an article by Wegner (2009) has convinced me of that. You also get Besets in the Graeco-Roman Period. However, most Egyptologists don't believe they existed in the New Kingdom, again I'm not so sure. There are loads of male Bes depictions at Amarna.

As a bit of an aside, there is a similar, evil, male daemon in a New Kingdom Book of the Dead (
Ratié 1968, 10-11, pl.13). Sorry I can't show a picture but its copyright. The one in the Book of the Dead is however, clearly a male (it has a beard), but it has the same pose as ours. It seems to be threatening to take the heart (normally Bes protects the heart). But one would hardly wear an amulet of such a threatening being? There are also one or two amulets of male Bes's in this pose, e.g. Fitzwilliam 5995-1943. Maybe these male Bes's in a similar pose are irrelevent.

In support of ours being an actual female, the females, tend to have human faces, and the hair of ours looks more female than male. But are their other examples? So far I haven't found an exact parallel but Brunner-Traut (1979: 31, plate V) shows EGA 4299 an undated ostracon but probably 19th Dynasty, of Bes with breasts. These are not 'manboobs' but proper, female type breasts. Again sorry for lack of pics. Copyright again - the object is in the Fitzwilliam.

So I am undecided. Kate Bosse-Griffiths mentioned two parallels in other collections (one in the Fitzwilliam and one in the Kofler-Truinger collection) but as yet I have been able to obtain decent pictures.

There will be more on this topic!

PS if you are interested in the figures with staffs, either side of 'Beset', there is a little bit on them here.

Since I wrote this a kind person drew my attention to a New Kingdom depiction of Bes with 'Hathor-like' curls on a headrest in Berlin (11625). 

Here is the link:


Bosse-Griffiths, Kate. 1977. “A Beset Amulet from the Amarna Period.” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 63: 98-106.

Brunner-Traut, E. 1979. Egyptian Artists' Ketches. Figured Ostraka from the Gayor-Anderson Collection in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Leiden: Nederlands Institut voor het Nabije Oosten.

√©, S. 1968. Papyrus of Neferubenef BD (Louvre III, 93). Cairo:Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale.

Wegner, J. 2009. A Decorated Birth Brick from South Abydos. New Evidence on Childbirth and Birth Magic in the Middle Kingdom. In Archaism and Innovation: Studies in the Culture of Middle Kingdom Egypt edited by Silverman, D.P., Simpson, W.K. and Wegner, J., New Haven and Philadelphia, 447-496. You can download this online from: http://academia.edu/894376/A_Decorated_Birth_Brick_from_South_Abydos_New_Evidence_on_Childbirth_and_Birth_Magic_in_the_Middle_Kingdom

1 comment:

  1. Since I wrote this a kind person drew my attention to a New Kingdom depiction of Bes with 'Hathor-like' curls on a headrest in Berlin (11625). Here is the link: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=gr5BgOwEJicC&pg=PA149&lpg=PA149&dq=Bes+headrest+egypt+new+kingdom+berlin&source=bl&ots=vJhJlm90Bw&sig=3vYVrdBBYCDbKjrVBklkvRgtLJo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=QnI7UqrtHKey0QWg84HACA&ved=0CEgQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=Bes%20headrest%20egypt%20new%20kingdom%20berlin&f=false