Heart amulet

Accession Number

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A red jasper heart amulet. This appears to be a cornice heart amulet (Sousa 2011, 17–20), which dates at the earliest to the Twenty-first Dynasty, though most are Late Period. It was a gift from University of Wales, Aberystwyth. To the Egyptians the heart was the most important organ of the body, the seat of intelligence and feeling. It was the heart that was weighed on the balance in the afterlife to judge whether or not a person should live again. Only two heart amulets are known before the New Kingdom, but once established this amulet was so important that it appeared on every mummy. Red stones were most commonly used. Four chapters of the Book of the Dead were concerned with not taking a man's heart away. Spell 26 is the 'Spell for giving the deceased's heart to him in the realm of the dead'. Spell 29B is for a heart amulet of carnelian. Spell 30B of the Book of the Dead is for the heart amulet. The importance of the heart is made clear in Chapter 30B of the Book of the Dead; a plea for the heart not to oppose the deceased before the tribunal. The heart was the essence of the person, their seat of intellect and emotion. Indeed, the weighing of the heart scene was associated with Spell 30B before it became associated with Spell 125 (Gee 2009, 4–5). However, Sousa (2011) associates the cornice heart amulet with the child deities, such as Harpocrates, who were particularly popular in the Late Period. He further suggests that such amulets may well have been worn during life.


Andrews, Carol 1994. Amulets of ancient Egypt. London: The British Museum Press. Gee, John 2009. Of heart scarabs and balance weights: a new interpretation of Book of the Dead 30B. Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 36, 1–15. Naguib, Saphinaz-Amal 1994. Interpreting abstract concepts: towards an attempt to classify the ancient Egyptian notion of person. Discussions in Egyptology 29, 99–124. Piankoff, Alexandre 1930. Le "cœur" dans les textes égyptiens depuis l'Ancien jusqu'à la fin du Nouvel Empire. Paris: Paul Geuthner. Sousa, Rogério 2007. The meaning of the heart amulets in Egyptian art. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 43, 59–70. Sousa, Rogério 2011. The heart of wisdom: studies on the heart amulet in ancient Egypt. BAR International Series 2211. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Last modified: 08 Nov 2020

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