The Light of Immortality

Symbolism of faience in ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egyptian necklace

 © Australian Museum

It was believed that faience reflects the afterlife with its luminous surface representing the light of immortality. The cultural and spiritual significance of faience is evident through the diverse use by ancient Egyptians.

Tiles that adorned the walls of tombs were made of faience and so were beads integrated into intricate nets placed over mummies. Faience was also used to make a variety of jewellery and ornaments, such as necklaces and rings, as well as votive amulets and figurines of animals, scarabs and human forms. These figurines were used in ceremonies and funerary settings.

A large number of moulds that have been discovered in many temples demonstrate not only that faience ornaments and amulets played an important role in Egyptian worship but that they were also locally produced.

The amulet (fragment) of a god Thoth (E22345-004), acquired via the Egyptian Exploration Fund in 1913, is a good example of its variable uses. Thoth was once a god of the moon and thought to be all things magical - a mediator between good and evil; a scribe to the gods and to the underworld; and inventor of the hieroglyphics.

Early depictions revealed Thoth in the form of a baboon - a nocturnal (lunar) and intelligent creature. During the Old Kingdom (2686 – 2181 BC) he was more commonly depicted as an ibis-headed man carrying a scribal palette and pen, or notched palm-leaf, as is evident in this amulet. This new image attempted to show the faculties of Thoth. His relation to the moon is revealed through the curved beak that mimics the crescent moon, and through the headdress in the form of a disc and crescent that symbolises the lunar cycles which were used by Ancient Egyptians to plan and schedule their rituals.  
 

Researched by Natalie Cassaniti


Dr Stan Florek , Database Manager
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